Skip to main content

Full text of "The slavery of the British West India colonies delineated, as it exists both in law and practice, and compared with the slavery of other countries, ancient and modern"

See other formats



OF    THE 











(successors    to    J.    EUTTERWORTH    AND    SON,) 

43,  fleet-street; 




In  humbly  dedicating  this  volume  to  your  Ma- 
jesty, without  having  asked  your  gracious  permission 
to  do  so,  I  am,  perhaps,  departing  from  ordinary 
rules ;  but  if  so,  it  is  from  no  want  of  confidence  in 
your  royal  condescension  and  benignity,  qualities 
which  have  preeminently  distinguished  your  Ma- 
jesty from  the  first  moment  of  your  reign,  and  added 
to  the  high  sentiment  of  loyalty,  that  of  personal  at- 
tachment, in  the  hearts  of  your  faithful  subjects.  It 
is  because,  from  peculiar  considerations  in  a  case  of 
no  ordinary  kind,  I  think  it  more  consistent  with 
feelings  of  the  most  dutiful  and  profound  respect 
towards  your  Majesty,  to  invoke  publicly  your 
royal  attention  to  a  work  on  the  subject  of  colonial 
slavery,  without  presuming  to  ask  for  your  consent. 

The  unfortunate  and  anomalous  situation  of  a 
large  class  of  your  Majesty's  subjects,  of  whom  I  am 
a  feeble  advocate,  recommends  their  cause  in  a  pe- 
culiar manner,  to  the  audience  and  protection  of  the 


throne.  Over  a  large  proportion  of  them  your  Ma- 
jesty is  the  immediate  and  sole  legislator ;  and  all 
are  destitute  of  any  such  share  in  the  formation  of 
the  laws  by  which  they  are  governed,  as  the  other 
subjects  of  these  United  Kingdoms  directly  or  in- 
directly enjoy  in  both  Houses  of  Parliament.  Their 
legislative  influence  exists  in  the  heart  of  the  Sove- 
reign alone. 

JVor  have  they  that  important  resort,  when  ag- 
grieved, either  m  the  formation  or  administration  of 
the  laws,  which  their  free  fellow-subjects  possess. 
They  cannot  state  their  wrongs  or  their  sufferings 
by  petitions,  even  to  the  common  father  of  his 
people.  They  have  no  public  voice ;  or  none  to 
which  they  dare  give  utterance. 

To  the  generous  feelings  of  your  Majesty,  these 
disabilities  will  become  motives  for  listening,  with 
patient  and  favourable  attention,  to  a  voluntary  ad- 
vocate of  that  helpless  class,  comprising  near  a  mil- 
lion of  your  Majesty's  subjects,  who  was  long  an 
eye-witness  of  their  calamitous  situation,  and  now 
desires  to  lay  at  the  foot  of  your  throne,  a  full  ac- 
count of  it,  supported  by  what  will  be  found  decisive 
evidence,  for  your  Majesty's  compassionate  con- 

It  is  their  great  further  misfortune,  especially  that 
of  the  agricultural  slaves,  whose  general  lot  is  by 
far  more  severe  than  that  of  the  domestics,  that 
their  situation  and  treatment  are  known,  for  the  most 
part,  only  to  those  who  have  a  deep  interest  in  con- 
cealing all  that  is  most  oppressive  in  them  from 
European    minds,    and    exhibiting   in   a   fallacious 


view  every  real  or  pretended  mitigation.  It  is  not 
distance  of  position  only  that  gives  facility  to  such 
deceptions  ;  for  the  nature  of  the  system  makes  the 
discovery  of  its  worst  practical  abuses  extremely  dif- 
ficult, even  on  the  spot,  except  to  its  immediate 
administrators,  or  persons  long  resident  among  them. 
Those  oppressions,  especially  of  the  plantation  slaves, 
which  are  at  once  the  most  general  and  most  per- 
nicious, the  excess  of  their  forced  labour,  and  the 
insufficiency  of  their  sustenance,  are  easily  con- 
cealed from  transient  visitors ;  and  can  be  estimated 
only  by  those  who  have  seen  them  at  all  hours  and 
seasons ;  and  have  been  enabled  to  examine,  in  its 
details,  the  interior  economy  of  the  plantations. 

To  lay  open  these  sources  of  error,  and  remove 
the  misconceptions  that  have  arisen  from  them  in 
many  upright  and  intelligent  minds,  have  been 
leading  objects  in  the  work  which  I  have  now  the 
honour  humbly  to  present  to  your  Majesty.  For 
those  purposes  I  have  found  it  necessary  to  review 
the  evidence  given  before  Parliament  near  forty 
years  ago,  by  some  distinguished  public  characters, 
chiefly  officers  of  high  rank  in  the  naval  and  military 
services,  who  had  visited  the  colonies ;  and  some  of 
whom  had  been  long  on  the  West  India  station  : 
not  certainly  with  a  view  to  impeach  tbe  sincerity  of 
their  opinions,  or  the  respectability  of  their  judg- 
ments ;  but,  on  the  contrary,  to  shew  that  even 
such  men,  eminent  though  some  of  them  were  for 
their  talents,  as  well  as  illustrious  from  their  public 
services,  were  unable  to  avoid  those  errors  into  which 
strangers   of  distinction  are   led,   when   they  form 

iv  DKD1C4T10N, 

opinions  of  slavery  from  what  is  permitted  to  meet 
their  eyes  and  ears,  while  honoured  guests  in  the 

The  distant  date  of  such  testimony  did  not  allow 
me  to  leave  it  unnoticed,  as  it  is  still  cited  by  some 
of  the  colonial  opponents  to  whom  I  had  to  reply. 
In  fact,  they  have  none  more  recent,  of  the  same 
high  character,  to  cite.  But  its  age  also  constitutes 
its  pre-eminent  value,  in  the  use  to  which  I  now  ap- 
ply it ;  because,  in  reference  to  the  period  at  which 
that  evidence  was  given,  there  is  no  longer  any  doubt 
or  denial  of  facts,  which  prove  that  those  much  re- 
spected witnesses  were,  in  the  favourable  accounts 
they  gave  of  slavery,  very  widely  deceived. 

Should  your  Majesty  have  the  condescension  to 
read  what  I  have  written  on  this  subject,  from  the 
twentieth  to  the  forty-sixth  page  of  this  volume,  you 
will  find  that  the  defence  now  maintained  on  the 
part  of  the  sugar  colonies,  is  quite  inconsistent  with 
that  which  their  agents  formerly  called  those  gallant 
officers  and  others  to  support ;  and  amounts,  in  effect, 
to  a  repudiation  of  their  honest  but  erroneous  tes- 

The  assemblies,  and  the  planters  at  large,  have 
been  driven  by  subsequent  investigations,  and  by  the 
admissions  of  writers  of  their  own  party,  to  confess 
that  the  state  of  slavery  at  that  period  was  quite 
indefensible ;  and  what  they  now  desire  us  to  be- 
lieve, on  the  faith  of  evidence  taken  by  themselves 
in  the  colonies,  and  on  the  assertions  of  their  ac- 
credited public  apologists,  is  that  the  case  has  since 
been  altered,  or  rather   reversed,     Instead  of  still 


maintaining  that  the  slaves,  at  the  era  of  the  par- 
liamentary examinations,  were  treated  with  the  ut- 
most tenderness  and  liberality,  as  their  witnesses 
then  asserted,  they  admit,  in  effect,  that  the  treat- 
ment was  then  as  negligent,  sordid,  and  severe, 
as  abolitionists  alleged.  They  acknowledge  that 
cruelties  in  punishment  were  then  frequent,  and  that 
the  laws  afforded  no  protection  against  them  ;  that 
the  preservation  of  their  numbers  by  native  increase, 
was  no  object  of  solicitude  with  their  masters,  and 
that  the  frightful  decrease  in  population  was,  in 
a  great  measure,  imputable  to  avaricious  oppression 
and  neglect.  One  eminent  planter  and  colonial 
apologist.  Dr.  Collins,  has  since  expressly  admitted, 
that  inanition  and  famine,  combined  with  severe 
labour,  were  very  frequent  causes  of  mortality  among 
the  plantation  slaves,  speaking  of  the  same  times  in 
which  the  respectable  witnesses  I  have  alluded  to, 
thought  their  labour  remarkably  light,  and  their 
sustenance  abundant. 

Some  of  the  present  admissions,  on  the  highest 
colonial  authority,  bring  the  condemnation  of  the 
former  case  much  further  down.  They  date  the 
very  commencement  of  humanity  in  the  treatment  of 
slaves,  and  care  of  their  preservation,  from  the  abo- 
lition of  the  slave  trade  in  1807  ;  and  ascribe  it  to  the 
influence  of  that  measure  on  the  minds  of  the  masters. 

If  the  new  defence,  however  inconsistent  with  the 
old,  were  founded  in  truth  ;  if  the  alleged  subsequent 
improvements  were  real,  and  such  as  to  satisfy,  in  a 
reasonable  degree,  the  demands  of  justice  and  hu- 
manity, these  remarks  would  be  less  worthy  of  your 


Majesty's  attention.  But  I  have  shown  in  this  work, 
that  the  policy  of  casting  back  on  past  times,  all  that 
is  most  reproachful  in  the  system,  and  taking  credit 
thereby  for  alleged  reformations,  is  by  no  means 
new ;  and  that  the  present  iteration  of  it  has  no  just 
claim  to  confidence. 

Could  I  hope  that  my  delineation  of  slavery 
throughout,  as  contained  in  the  present  and  former 
volume,  would  be  honoured  with  a  perusal  by  your 
Majesty,  I  should  not  doubt  that  the  result  would  be 
a  conviction  in  your  royal  mind,  that  the  alleged 
improvements  are,  for  the  most  part,  fictitious  or 
illusory.  In  respect,  at  least,  of  the  grand  econo- 
mical oppressions  of  excessive  labour,  and  inade- 
quate maintenance,  I  have  shown  that  the  case  is 
not  materially  altered,  by  what,  I  trust,  will  be  found 
irrefragable  proofs.  If  not,  it  must  be  because,  not 
merely  the  enemies  of  the  system,  but  its  friends, 
apologists,  and  administrators,  are  supposed  to  have 
concurred  in  defaming  it ;  for  I  have  relied  upon 
the  evidence  on  the  colonial  side  alone. 

I  humbly  submit,  on  the  whole,  to  your  Majesty's 
judgment,  that  the  state  of  slavery  in  the  colonies, 
which  I  have  delineated,  both  in  point  of  law  and 
practice,  is  not  more  inconsistent  with  the  character 
of  that  free  and  happy  constitution  over  which  your 
Majesty  has  the  happiness  and  glory  to  preside,  than 
repugnant  to  the  clearest  dictates  of  religion,  justice, 
and  humanity ;  and  such  as  ought  no  longer  to  be 
maintained  or  tolerated  within  your  Majesty's  do- 

That  your  Majesty's  life  may  be  prolonged,  with 


every  public  and  private  blessing,  long  after  the  aged 
subject,  who  has  now  the  honour  to  address  you, 
shall  be  called  to  his  account  before  the  King  of 
Kings,  and  that  among  the  felicities  and  glories  of 
your  reign,  may  be  our  deliverance  from  the  guilt 
and  reproach  of  colonial  slavery,  is  the  ardent  wish 
and  prayer  of 


Your  Majesty's  faithful  and  devoted 

Servant  and  Subject 


Pages   ix-x   omitted   in  numberi 



The  hope  of  engaging  at  this  critical  and  arduous 
juncture  of  political  affairs,  so  large  a  portion  of  the 
time  of  British  statesmen  and  legislators,  as  would 
be  necessary  for  the  perusal  of  the  work  1  now  offer 
to  the  public,  may  seem  idle  and  presumptuous ; 
yet  for  their  use  chiefly  it  has  been  composed. 

Why  it  was  not  sooner  finished  and  published,  is 
partly  explained  in  my  introductory  chapter ;  and  if 
the  apologies  there  made  are  not  thought  sufficient, 
let  me  here  claim  the  indulgence  due  to  the  infirmi- 
ties of  age.  The  composition  of  a  work  like  this 
becomes  laborious,  in  proportion  as  memory,  in  the 
promptness  of  its  suggestions,  declines ;  and  my  sight 
also  having,  during  the  last  two  or  three  years,  been 
greatly  impaired,  the  task  of  keeping  up,  in  my 
reading,  with  the  rapid  growth  of  information  and 
discussion  in  a  voluminous  public  controversy,  has 
been  more  than,  consistently  with  official  and  private 
duties,  I  could  easily  sustain. 

The  best  evidence  of  my  own  sincere  persuasion, 
that  such  a  work  was  wanted,  is  that  I  have  at  all, 
though  feebly  and  tardily,  surmounted  those  impedi- 


ments,  by  a  great  sacrifice  of  personal  ease,  the  en- 
joyment which  age  is  most  covetous  of,  and  finds  it 
hardest  to  relinquish. 

The  peculiar  plan  of  my  work  is  that,  which  in 
my  own  view  constitutes  its  chief,  or  whole,  im- 
portance ;  and  gives  me  the  hope  of  its  being  useful 
to  the  great  cause  ihat  I  advocate,  with  enlightened 
and  influential  minds. 

Of  all  the  difficulties  with  which  public  men,  per- 
sonally strangers  to  the  West  India  colonies,  are  em- 
barrassed by  the  anti-slavery  question,  the  greatest, 
I  believe,  is  that  of  ascertaining  on  what  premises  of 
fact  they  can  safely  rely  ;  and  there  can  be  no  pos 
sible  means  of  removing  this  difficulty  so  effectual  as 
the  singular  plan  which  I  have  adopted,  that  of 
reasoning  wholly  e.v  concessis,  and  establishing  every 
fact  that  I  adduce  by  the  evidence  of  my  opponents 

A  work  constructed  on  such  principles,  neither 
asks  nor  needs  any  confidence  in  its  author.  It 
might  have  been  published  anonymously,  without 
impairing  its  effect :  except  that  it  would  have  been 
less  likely  to  obtain  public  attention,  on  a  subject 
which  has  not  the  attraction  of  novelty;  and  on 
which  those  who  read,  not  for  entertainment  merely, 
but  instruction,  too  generally,  though  very  errone- 
ously, suppose  they  have  nothing  still  to  learn. 

This  consideration,  however,  is  of  great  and  fearful 
importance  to  the  cause  of  the  unfortunate  slaves. 
Though  the  inherent  force  of  truth  has,  at  length, 
made  its  way  through  all  the  entrenchments  of  con- 
troversial falsehood,  and  nothing  is  wanting  to  insure 


the  victory  of  humanity  and  justice,  but  to  turn 
the  artillery  of  the  adverse  host  upon  themselves ; 
though  a  watchful  advocate  of  reformation  now  sees 
his  way  to  full  success,  in  a  review  of  the  evidence 
opposed  to  him ;  one  formidable  obstacle  intervenes : 
—  it  is  the  satiety  of  his  audience: — it  is  the  diffi- 
culty of  being  heard. 

To  lessen,  if  possible,  this  disadvantage,  I  have 
taken  a  course  not  very  pleasant  to  a  man  who  loves 
peace,  and  sincerely  dislikes  publicity,  that  of 
affixing  my  name  to  the  work ;  for  it  is  one  fair 
claim  to  attention,  that  the  author  is  known  to  be 
well  acquainted  with  his  subject;  and  when  I  pledge 
myself,  as  I  here  confidently  do,  that  the  views  I 
have  now  to  open  on  the  state  of  colonial  slavery 
are,  in  great  measure,  new  to  the  public, — new,  at 
least,  in  their  systematic  combination,  and  the 
strong  species  of  demonstration  with  which  they  are 
accompanied ;  and  new,  also,  as  to  the  details  of  the 
general  oppressions  they  describe,  many,  perhaps, 
from  curiosity,  if  not  from  higher  motives,  will  take 
the  trouble  to  satisfy  themselves  whether  that  pledge, 
from  a  man  well  versed  in  the  long-depending  con- 
troversy, has  been  forfeited  or  redeemed. 

But  will  there  not  be  a  counterpoise  to  this  be- 
nefit, in  adverse  prepossessions,  which  the  author's 
name  may  excite  ?  Not,  I  humbly  hope,  with  men 
of  intelligence  and  penetration  ;  for  though  I  ask  no 
confidence,  I  am  unconscious  of  any  thing  that  can 
fairly  expose  me  to  suspicion  or  distrust. 

I  have,  indeed,  been  long  and  loudly  railed 
against,  as  an  enemy  of  the  sugar  colonies,  and  a 


man  intent  on  their  destruction  ;  but  public  men  well 
know,  from  experience,  how  to  estimate  party- 
spirited  invectives  like  these.  They  mean  only  that 
my  views  of  the  sources  of  prosperity  and  mischief 
to  the  planters,  are,  and  always  have  been,  dia- 
metrically opposite  to  their  own ;  that  I  was  an  early 
and  determined  enemy  to  the  slave-trade,  which 
they  long  held  vital  to  their  welfare;  and,  an  enemy 
not  less  determined,  of  that  interior  system  which,  in 
their  eyes,  is  prosperity  and  safety,  but,  in  mine, 
perennial  calamity,  and  closely  impending  ruin. 
They  now,  virtually  admit  that  I  was  their  friend, 
rather  than  their  enemy,  in  the  former  case  ;  and, 
perhaps,  will  one  day  do  me  the  same  justice  in  the 

Against  some  anonymous  charges,  less  vague, 
arraigning  my  motives  and  sincerity,  I  have  already 
defended  myself  before  the  public  ;  *  and  my  anta- 
gonists have  not  hazarded  a  reply. 

There  is  one  imputation,  indeed,  which,  though 
not  ill  calculated,  I  fear,  to  enlist  strong  prejudices 
against  any  advocate  of  a  cause  like  this,  with  no 
small  part  of  the  community,  I  cannot  desire  to 
contradict ;  but  rather  wish,  that  when  fairly  in- 
terpreted, it  were  true  to  a  greater  extent  than  it 
really  is.  I  mean  the  charge,  mixed  up  with  almost 
every  invective  of  my  colonial  enemies,  that  1  am 
actuated  in  these  labours  by  such  a  zeal  for  Christian 
doctrines  and  principles,  as  they  call  enthusiasm  and 
fanaticism  ;  or  that  I  am  a  character,  their  familiar 

*  Sre  tlie  Preface  to  my  former  volume. 


name  for  whicli  I  will  not  quote,  because  it  is  a  most 
irreverent,  not  to  say"  impious  use,  for  derisive  pur- 
poses, of  a  scriptural  term,  appropriated  to  the  ven- 
erated first  founders  of  our  faith. 

Far  be  it  from  me  to  disclaim,  as  motives  of  my 
zeal,  in  this  great  cause,  the  fear  of  God,  and  a  sense 
of  Christian  duty  ;  but  I  will  not  needlessly  leave 
to  my  opponents  the  benefit  of  those  prejudices  to 
which  they  craftily  appeal ;  and,  therefore,  will  not 
scruple  to  say,  that  if  my  hostility  to  West  India 
slavery  were  truly  imputable  to  zeal  for  the  peculiar 
doctrines  of  the  gospel,  the  effect  must  have  pre- 
ceded its  cause. 

When  I  first  knew  the  West  Indies,  I  was  a  very 
young  man  ;  and  not  less  ignorant  and  regardless  of 
Christianity,  or  of  all,  at  least,  that  exclusively  be- 
longs to  it,  than  young  men  in  my  own  sphere  of 
life  then  too  generally  were.  I  had  early  imbibed 
such  theological  opinions  as  are  commonly  called 
liberal ;  and  though  religion  was  not  wholly  left  out 
of  my  scheme,  either  in  theory  or  practice,  it  was  a 
religion  in  which  not  only  Christians  of  the  lowest 
standard,  but  enlightened  heathens,  might  have  con- 
curred :  nor  can  any  man  be  more  disposed  than  I 
then  was  to  despise,  as  narrow-mindedness  and 
bigotry,  those  views  which  I  am  now  supposed, 
whether  justly  or  not,  to  entertain.  Yet  I  can  truly 
say,  and  appeal  to  my  known  conduct  in  proof  of  it, 
that  I  no  sooner  personally  knew  what  negro  slavery 
is,  in  its  odious  practice  and  effects,  than  I  conceived 
and  avowed  for  it  all  the  detestation  that  I  at  this 
moment  feel,  regarded  it  as  the  greatest  evil  that 


ever  afflicted  suffering  humanity,  and  the  most  op- 
probrious crime  of  my  country ;  and  devoted  my 
future  life,  as  far  as  was  immediately  possible,  to 
that  great  African  cause,  in  which  I  have  continued 
to  labour  for  no  less  than  forty-seven  years. 

It  is  not  true,  then,  that  zeal  for  Christianity,  or 
what  my  opponents  call  enthusiasm  in  religion,  made 
me  an  enemy  to  slavery.  It  would  be  much  nearer 
the  truth,  for  certain  reasons,  to  say  that  this  enmity 
made  me  a  Christian.  But  I  know  of  no  scheme  of 
religion  or  morals.  Christian  or  Pagan,  on  which  the 
slavery  of  the  sugar  colonies,  when  truly  delineated, 
can  admit  of  justification  or  excuse. 

A  fear  has  sometimes  occurred  to  me  while  writing 
on  these  subjects  for  the  public,  and  especially  when 
noticing  the  corrupting  effects  of  familiarity  and  con- 
tact with  the  harsh  system,  in  the  minds  of  those 
who  have  long  resided  in  the  colonies,  that  I  might 
seem  to  arrogate  to  myself  some  native  superiority 
to  others,  in  having,  during  a  residence  there  of  eleven 
years,  escaped  that  moral  contagion.     Let  me  here, 
therefore,  disclaim  as  I  sincerely  can,  any  such  vain 
opinion.     Most  unaffectedly  do  I  confess  my  belief, 
that  had  it  not  pleased  a  gracious  providence   to 
guard  me  there  by  singular  means  from  the  general 
influence,  1  should,  like  others,  have  soon  reconciled 
myself  to  the  becoming  an  owner  of  slaves,  next,  in 
consequence,  to  the  exercise  of  that  odious  discipline 
by  which  they  are  governed,  and  finally,  perhaps,  to 
the  becoming  a  planter,  and  to  all  the  abuses  of  the 
harsh  relation  which  1  have  delineated  in  the  present 
work.     That  t  escaped  that  ordinary  progress  was 


chiefly  owing  to  a  resolution  formed  immediately 
after  my  first  arrival  in  the  West  Indies,  and  in- 
flexibly adhered  to  during  my  stay  there,  never  to  be 
the  owner  of  a  slave.  The  calumnies  of  colonial 
enemies  obliged  me,  self-defensively,  to  notice  this 
peculiarity,  in  the  preface  to  my  former  volume,*  and 
no  opponent,  to  my  knowledge,  has  since  attempted 
to  contradict  the  facts  there  stated.  But  let  me  now 
add  to  them,  if  not  from  candour  and  justice  to  others, 
who  have,  on  their  emigration  to  lands  of  slavery, 
guarded  themselves  by  no  such  resolution,  at  least 
in  humble  gratitude  to  an  all-directing  Providence, 
an  incident  that  led  me  happily  to  form  it. 

Like  other  strangers  from  Europe,  I  should  pro- 
bably have  seen  and  heard  little  of  the  state  and 
treatment  of  slaves  to  disgust  or  alarm  me,  till  too 
late  to  adopt  that  precaution,  but  for  the  coincidence 
of  various  circumstances  apparently  fortuitous  (by  a 
Christian  nothing  should  be  strictly  deemed  such), 
which  gave  me,  immediately  after  my  first  arrival,  a 
view  of  the  system  more  impressive  and  revolting 
than  can  be  easily  described ;  and  taught  me  more  in 
a  day,  of  its  real  character  and  effects,  than  those 
who  do  not  go  out  to  reside  on  plantations,  are  likely 
to  learn  for  years,  or  till  habit  has  made  the  disco- 
very useless  to  them.  Though  destined  to  St.  CJiris- 
topher,  I  was  led,  by  an  acquaintance  accidentally 
formed,  to  take  my  passage  in  a  ship  that  had  pre- 
viously to  touch  at  Barbadoes,  an  island  four  degrees 
of  latitude  out  of  my  way,  to  land  some  passengers 

*  See  p.  51  to  54. 



and  stores  there,  where  we  arrived,  after  an  accident 
that  detained  us  long  in  the  Downs,  in  December, 

A  letter  from  a  London  merchant  to  his  cor- 
respondent at  Bridgetown,  the  chief  port  of  the 
island,  secured  to  me  the  hospitable  reception  from 
him  —  which  strangers  usually  meet  in  that  part  of 
the  world  ;  and  the  next  day  I  met  a  large  party  at 
his  house,  that  had  been  invited  to  dine  with  me 

The  principal  topic  of  conversation  at  table,  was 
the  approaching  trial  of  four  plantation  slaves, 
charged  with  the  murder  of  a  gentleman  of  the  me- 
dical profession,  for  which  they  were  to  be  tried  the 
next  day  ;  and  my  attention  was  the  more  excited  to 
the  subject,  by  the  discovery  that  there  were  among 
the  gentlemen  in  company  some  who  strongly  doubt- 
ed the  guilt  of  the  prisoners,  that  the  case  was  in- 
volved in  very  mysterious  circumstances,  and  that 
public  suspicion  glanced  at  a  gentleman  of  the 
island,  who  had  not  however  been  prosecuted,  or 
publicly  charged  with  the  offence. 

I  learned,  in  answer  to  questions  that  curiosity 
prompted  me  to  put  to  one  or  more  of  the  gentlemen 
near  me,  what  the  grounds  of  that  suspicion  were  ; 
but  1  will  not  state  them  here,  because,  though  forty - 
seven  years  have  since  elapsed,  I  cannot  be  sure  that 
the  indication  they  might  furnish  of  the  mdividual 
suspected,  to  surviving  members  of  the  same  society, 
would  not  be  injurious  to  him,  if  still  in  life ;  or  to  the 
feelings  of  his  relations  and  friends  if  he  is  no  more. 
I   will  only  say,  that  the  suspicious  circumstances 


appeared  to  me  pretty  strong ;  and  that  one  of  them 
was  a  certain  interest  which  he  was  understood  to 
have  in  the  fatal  event ;  whereas  the  negroes,  if 
guilty,  must  have  committed  what  in  the  West  In- 
dies is  a  crime  very  rarely  heard  of,  the  murder  of  a 
white  man  ;  and  without  any  apparent  motive. 

My  curiosity  naturally  inspired  a  wish  to  be  pre- 
sent at  the  trial,  not  only  from  these  circumstances 
of  the  case,  but  because  I  was  too  truly  told  that 
slaves  were  tried  for  their  offences  in  a  very  different 
way  from  that  which  I  nad  been  accustomed  to  wit- 
ness on  the  trial  of  criminals  in  England ;  and  my 
kind  entertainer,  therefore,  was  induced  to  accom- 
pany me  to  the  court  at  its  sitting  the  next  morning. 

Very  soon  and  painfully  did  I  perceive  how  shock- 
ing a  contrast  there  was  between  the  proceedings  of 
a  slave  court,  and  the  humanity  of  our  criminal 

The  court,  consisting  of  a  bench  of  justices  of  the 
peace,  five  I  think  in  number,  without  a  jury,  was  no 
sooner  constituted,  than  the  four  black  prisoners  were 
placed  at  the  bar ;  and  as  they  were  first  common 
field  negroes  I  had  seen,  their  filthy  and  scanty  garbs 
would  have  moved  my  pity,  if  it  had  not  been  more 
strongly  excited  by  the  pain  they  were  visibly  suf- 
fering from  tight  ligatures  of  cord  round  their  crossed 
wrists,  which  supplied  the  place  of  hand-cuffs.  I 
noticed  it  to  my  companion,  and  said,  surely  they 
will  be  put  at  bodily  ease  during  their  trial ;  but  he 
replied  it  was  not  customary.  As  there  was  no  in- 
dictment, or  other  express  charge,  and  consequently 


no  arraignment,  they  had  not  to  hold  up  their  hands ; 
and  remained  bound  in  the  same  painful  way  while 
I  remained  a  spectator. 

But  the  first  proceeding  of  the  bench,  changed  the 
sensation  of  pity  in  my  breast,  into  honest  indigna- 
tion. It  was  the  production  and  reading  by  the 
chairman  of  a  letter  received  by  him  from  a  gentle- 
man, who  was  owner  of  two  of  the  prisoners,  and 
who  had  been  written  to  with  an  enquiry,  whether 
he  would  choose  to  employ  a  lawyer  in  the  defence 
of  his  slaves  ;  and  the  answer  was  that  he  declined 
to  do  so,  adding  as  his  reason,  *'  God  forbid  that  he 
"  sliould  wish  in  such  a  case  to  screen  the  guilty  from 
"  'pujiishmentr  To  the  best  of  my  recollection  these 
were  the  very  words :  I  am  sure  such  was  the  exact 
import  of  the  letter. 

I  turned  with  a  look  of  astonishment  to  my  con- 
ductor ;  but  before  I  could  whisper  my  feelings,  they 
were  diverted  from  the  master  to  the  bench ;  for  to 
my  astonishment  the  chairman  applauded  the  letter, 
as  honourable  to  the  writer ;  and  the  other  magis- 
trates concurred  in  his  eulogy. 

Strangely  misplaced  though  I  felt  it  to  be,  and 
shocked  though  I  was  at  such  a  cruel  prejudication 
of  the  unfortunate  prisoners  by  their  natural  pro- 
tector, I  supposed  that  the  commendation  rested  on 
his  disinterestedness,  in  being  willing  to  sacrifice  his 
property  in  their  bodies,  without  opposition  to  the 
demands  of  public  justice  ;  for  I  did  not  then  know  of 
the  laws  noticed  in  my  first  volume,  p.  322  to  328, 
which  intitle  a  master,  on  the  conviction  and  execu- 


tion  of  his  slave,  to  be  paid  for  his  loss  of  property 
out  of  the  public  purse.  The  lawyers'  fees  in  con- 
sequence would  have  been  a  profitless  expense. 

Not  only  was  there  no  written  charge,  but  no 
opening  of  the  case,  on  the  part  of  the  prosecution. 
The  prisoners  had  to  learn  it  as  I  did,  only  from  the 
evidence  adduced ;  the  uncontroverted  part  of  which 
was  briefly  as  follows. 

The  deceased  had  been  visiting  a  certain  estate  in 
his  usual  routine  as  its  medical  attendant ;  and  after 
seeing  the  patients,  mounted  his  horse,  to  return  to 
his  residence  in  town.  A  negro  of  the  estate  the 
same  morning  brought  in  the  horse  with  the  saddle 
and  bridle  on,  saying  that  he  had  found  it  grazing 
in  one  of  the  cane  pieces  ;  and  the  manager  there- 
upon ordered  it  to  be  put  into  the  stable ;  but  did 
not  send  till  the  next  day  to  give  information  of  the 
occurrence  at  the  doctor's  house;  supposing,  as  he 
alleged,  that  the  horse  by  some  accident  had  got 
away  from  him,  and  would  be  sent  for.  The  de- 
ceased however  never  returned  to  his  home;  and  an 
alarm  naturally  arising,  he  was  enquired  for  at  the 
estates  he  had  visited ;  and  after  consequent  searches, 
the  body  was  found  in  a  cane  piece  not  far  from  the 
house  he  had  last  visited,  with  contusions  on  the 
head,  such  as  a  fall  from  his  horse  could  not  have 
occasioned,  and  which  were  the  apparent  cause  of 
his  death. 

So  far  there  was  nothing  to  affect  either  of  the 
prisoners  ;  except  that  one  of  them,  a  very  old  negro, 
was  the  man  who  brought  in  the  horse  ;  and  though 
this  was  regarded  as  a  leading  circumstance  of  sus- 


picioii  against  him,  it  seemed  to  me  of  a  directly  op- 
posite tendency. 

But  a  negro  girl,  or  wench,  as  she  was  called  in  the 
ordinary  style  of  the  slave  colonies,  a  deformed  creat- 
ture,  apparently  about  fifteen  years  old,  was  next 
called,  as  the  only  witness  who  could  bring  the  of- 
fence home,  by  positive  testimony,  to  the  prisoners. 

Before  she  was  examined,  she  was  addressed  by 
the  chairman  in  a  way  that  carried  my  surprise  and 
indignation  to  the  utmost  pitch.  She  was  admonished 
in  the  most  alarming  terms,  to  beware  not  to  conceal 
any  thing  that  made  against  the  pjisoners ;  and  told 
that  if  she  did,  she  would  involve  herself  in  their 
crime,  and  its  punishment.  No  caution  whatever  was 
given  as  to  any  sin  or  danger  on  the  opposite  side. 
Every  word  implied  a  premature  conviction  in  the 
mind  of  the  court,  that  the  prisoners  were  certainly 
guilty,  and  that  she  would  be  probably  disbelieved 
and  punished  if  she  said  any  thing  tending  to  acquit 
them.  Terror  was  strongly  depicted  in  her  counte- 
nance during  this  address ;  and  I  felt  at  the  moment 
that  had  I  been  a  juryman  to  try  the  prisoners  on  her 
evidence,  after  such  an  exhortation,  nothing  she 
might  testify  against  them  would  weigh  a  feather  in 
my  verdict. 

As  the  negro  dialect  was  new  to  me,  I  should  not 
have  been  able  clearly  to  understand  her  testimony 
in  many  parts  of  it,  without  the  assistance  of  my  com- 
panion, who  kindly  whispered  the  interpretations 
that  I  asked  for ;  but  her  story  in  substance  was, 
that  the  deceased  rode  up  to  the  negro  houses  of  a 
plantation  she    belonged  to,   for   shelter    against  a 


shower  of  rain  ;  that  he  alighted,  and  gave  his  horse 
to  one  of  the  prisoners  to  hold ;  and  that  thereupon 
he  and  the  other  three,  the  only  persons  present  ex- 
cept herself,  fell  upon  him  with  sticks,  knocked  him 
down,  and  beat  him  to  death ;  and  afterwards  car- 
ried his  body  to  the  cane  piece  in  which  it  was 

No  provocation,  or  other  motive,  was  assigned  by 
her,  and  her  evidence,  independently  of  the  terror 
that  had  been  impressed  upon  her,  would  have  ap- 
peared to  me,  from  its  matter,  and  the  manner  in 
which  it  was  given,  wholly  unworthy  of  credit. 
The  countenances  and  gesticulations  of  all  the  un- 
fortunate men  during  her  examination,  impressed  me 
with  a  strong  persuasion  of  their  innocence.  Never 
were  the  workings  of  nature  more  clearly  imitated 
by  the  most  expert  actor  on  any  stage,  if  her  whole 
narrative  did  not  fill  them  with  astonishment ;  and 
excite  in  them  all  the  indignation  that  belongs  to 
injured  innocence.  I  expressed  that  feeling  strongly 
to  my  conductor;  and  he  dissented  only  by  observ- 
ing that  negroes  in  general  were  masters  of  dissimula- 
tion ;  or  something  to  that  effect.. 

At  the  conclusion  of  her  evidence,  he  reminded  me 
that  it  was  time  to  go,  as  we  had  to  meet  a  party  at 
dinner ,  and  I  was  not  sorry  to  quit  the  scene,  for 
besides  the  bodily  sufferings,  to  which  the  foul  air  of 
a  crowded  court  in  that  hot  atmosphere  subjected  me, 
I  was  nearly  overpowered  by  disgust  and  indignation 
at  what  I  had  seen  and  heard. 

Here,  therefore,  I  must  cease  to  narrate  the  case 
from  my  own  direct  knowledge.    But  the  sequel  was 


well  supplied  to  me  by  evidence  beyond  suspicion. 
The  same  day  1  heard  of  what  further  passed  on  the 
trial,  from  persons  who  had  staid  in  court  to  the  end 
of  it.  No  further  evidence  had  fortified  that  of  the 
negro  icench  in  any  material  point.  On  the  strength 
of  her  testimony  alone,  the  magistrates  had  convicted 
all  the  prisoners  of  murder. 

I  asked  my  host  anxiously  "  do  you  think  they 
will  be  hanged  ?"  and  great  was  my  horror  at  the 
answer,  when  explained  to  me.  He  supposed  that 
the  governor  would  be  applied  to  for  an  '*  exemiplary 
death.'"  What,  I  asked,  was  meant  by  that?  *'  burn- 
ing alive  perhaps,  or  gibbeting/'  was  the  reply.  On 
enquiring  what  was  the  meaning  of  the  latter  term,  it 
was  explained  to  me  to  be  hanging  them  up  alive  on 
a  gibbet,  in  an  iron  cage  or  hoops,  and  leaving  them 
to  perish  by  hunger,  thirst,  and  the  other  miseries  of 
that  situation. 

"  And  by  what  law  are  such  cruelties  perpetrated 
within  the  British  dominions?"  He  could  not  tell; 
but  it  was  understood  the  governor  had  a  power  to 
order  such  execution  of  slaves  in  extraordinary  cases. 
"  And  did  you  ever  know  an  instance  of  this  gibbet- 
"  ingV  *'  Yes,  I  remember  one  ;  but  it  was  a  long 
"  time  ago.  I  was  then  a  boy  ;  and  can  remember 
"  that  after  the  man  had  hung  many  days  (he  was 
*'  above  a  week  in  dying),  I  and  other  boys  threw 
"  up  "  (I  forget  whether  he  said  pieces  of  bread  or 
fruit),  "  to  the  cage,  which  the  poor  wretch  tried  to 
**  catch  with  his  mouth  through  the  bars." 

I  should  hardly  venture  to  mention  this  fact,  if  like 
cruelties   had  not    been    narrated    by   Mr.   Bryan 


Edwards  and  others;  and  if  an  execution  precisely 
of  the  same  kind,  and  with  a  death  as  lingering,  had 
not  notoriously  taken  place  at  Dominica,  by  order  of 
the  then  governor,  while  I  was  resident  in  the 
Leeward  Islands.  Balla,  the  insurgent  chief,  was 
gibbetted,  close  to  the  chief  Town  of  Roseau ;  and 
being  there  a  year  or  more  after,  I  heard  a  particular 
account  of  it,  exactly  corresponding  with  that  of  my 
Barbadoes  host,  from  several  respectable  gentlemen 
who  disapproved  of  the  act ;  but  though  enemies  of 
the  governor  (who  was  then  the  object  of  violent 
popular  clamour),  candidly  admitted  that  he  had 
been  led  to  it  by  a  pretty  general  wish  of  the  com- 

I  left  Barbadoes  immediately  after  the  trial,  but 
heard  soon  after  the  sequel  of  the  tragedy,  from 
several  gentlemen  who  came  from  that  Island  to  St. 
Christopher.  The  court  applied  to  the  Governor, 
a  planter  of  the  Island,  and  one  who  afterwards  gave 
a  very  favourable  account  of  the  general  humanity  of 
his  brethren,  before  the  privy  council,  for  an  exemplai^y 
death;  and  he  ordered  that  the  four  convicts  should 
burnt  alive. 

But  what  perhaps  will  be  thought  the  most  singular 
part  of  the  case,  remains  to  be  told 

The  owner  of  two  of  the  slaves,  the  same  I  believe, 
who  so  laudably  refused  to  employ  a  lawyer  for  them> 
on  hearing  of  the  evidence  on  which  they  had  been 
convicted,  in  respect  of  time  and  place,  was  able  to 
establish  a  clear  alibi  in  their  favor,  to  the  satisfaction 

*  See  my  fiibt  vol.  p.  309.  unci  the  cascb  there  noticed. 


of  the  magistrates  who  had  tried  them ;  in  consequence 
of  which  they  were  pardoned.  But  however  incredi- 
ble it  may  appear,  the  two  other  unfortunate  men, 
convicted  on  the  very  same  evidence,  nevertheless 
underwent  the  cruel  fate  to  which  they  were  sen- 
tenced. They  were  literally  burnt  alive  at  Bridge- 

Among  the  persons  there  at  the  time,  whose  in- 
formation, within  a  short  time  after,  confirmed  to  me 
these  concluding  particulars,  was  the  late  Charles 
Sturt,  Esq.  afterwards  member  of  parliament  for 
Bridport.  He  was  then  Lieutenant  of  the  Falcon 
Sloop  of  War,  which  came  down  soon  after  the  exe- 
cution, from  Barbadoes  to  St.  Christopher;  and 
being  a  friend  of  mine,  he  answered  my  enquiries  on 
the  subject  very  freely;  confirming  that  extraordinary 
fact  which  I  had  found  it  difficult  to  believe,  the 
ground  on  which  two  of  the  prisoners  had  been  spared, 
and  which  nevertheless  had  not  saved  the  others  from 
a  dreadful  death.  "  I  had  not,"  he  added,  "  the 
'*  heart  to  witness  the  execution  myself;  but  several 
"  of  our  officers  and  people  did  ;  and  the  account  of 
"  it  they  gave  when  they  returned  on  board,  made 
"  me  shudder.  You  may  remember"  said  he,  "the 
"  little  old  man,"  (1  did  so,  and  shall  never  forget 
him.  At  this  moment,  his  spare  form  and  wrinkled 
visage,  agitated  with  wonder  and  indignation  while 
the  girl  was  giving  her  evidence,  are  before  me),  in 
"  his  tortures  he  drew  the  iron  stake  to  which  he  was 
"  fastened  from  the  ground,  and  had  nearly  got  away 
**  from  the  fire ;  but  they  drove  the  stake  into  the 


"  ground  again,  and  applied  more  fuel.     Both  were 
"  literally  roasted  to  death." 

Such  was  the  case  which  gave  me  my  first  right 
views  of  negro  slavery  in  the  sugar  colonies,  almost 
as  soon  as  I  reached  their  shores. 

My  previous  impressions  on  the  subject,  were  not 
less  erroneous  than  those  which  strangely  yet  prevail 
with  too  many  in  the  middle  and  upper  classes  of 
this  country.  An  uncle,  and  an  elder  brother  of 
mine,  had  reconciled  themselves  to  the  practical 
system  ;  and  the  latter,  a  man  of  as  much  native  be- 
nignity as  T  have  ever  known,  was  then  engaged  in 
it  as  a  planter.  My  fellow-passengers,  all  West  In- 
dians, had  kind  and  pleasing  manners  ;  and  they  had 
all,  as  usual,  in  like  cases,  taken  pains  with  me  to 
extenuate  that  revolting  incident  of  the  state,  which 
the  uninformed  are  led  to  believe  is  its  only  hard- 
ship, —  liability  to  be  whipped,  by  the  mandate  of  a 
private  master.  They,  indeed,  somewhat  counter- 
acted, in  this  respect,  their  own  purpose  ;  by  insist- 
ing much  upon,  and  magnifying,  the  faults  of  the 
slaves,  and  their  general  ignorance  and  stupidity,  as 
apologies  for  a  discipline  without  which  it  was  im- 
possible to  govern  them  :  for  I  had  reflection  enough 
to  apprehend  that  such  adverse  and  contemptuous 
views  of  them  in  the  minds  of  their  masters,  were 
not  unlikely  to  be  both  the  effects,  and  causes,  of 
severity  in  their  treatment.  On  the  whole,  how- 
ever, I  was  not  indisposed  to  believe,  that  an  insti- 
tution, to  which  so  many  of  my  humane  countrymen, 
and  some  of  my  near  relations  and  friends,  had  recon- 


ciled  themselves,  was  as  lenient,  generally,  in  prac- 
tice, as  the  case  would  well  allow. 

I  bless  God,  that  by  the  singular  means  here 
recorded,  I  was  kept  from  adding  to  such  ordinary 
sources  of  prejudice,  the  self-love  and  self  delusion, 
by  which  a  man  is  easily  reconciled  to  bad  practices, 
when  his  own  immediate  interests,  or  his  own  credit, 
plead  for  their  indulgence  and  defence ;  and  more 
especially,  when  habit  has  insensibly  lowered  in  his 
mind,  that  moral  standard  by  which  he  forms  his 

The  case  I  have  mentioned  was  every  way  calcu- 
lated to  rescue  me  at  the  outset,  from  delusion.  As 
a  lawyer,  I  could  not  but  be  deeply  impressed  with 
the  shocking  contrast  it  presented  to  the  impartial 
and  humane  administration  of  British  justice,  and 
its  reversal  of  every  principle  that  I  had  been  taught 
to  reverence,  by  writers  on  general  jurisprudence. 
And  how  much  were  my  indignant  feelings  aug- 
mented, when  I  learned,  from  an  enquiry  which  it 
suggested,  that  white  men  in  the  same  island,  were 
not  only  exempt  from  all  such  barbarous  departures 
from  the  laws  of  England  ;  but  for  the  wilful  murder 
of  a  slave,  were  liable  only  to  a  fine  of  fifteen 

It  gave  me  incidentally,  also,  a  full  proof  how 
greatly  the  feelings  of  slave-masters  in  general, 
were  indurated  by  the  system  they  administered  ; 

*  See  the  passages  in  my  former  volume,  before  referred  to,  and  tlie  whole 
of  the  sixth  section  of  its  fifth  chapter,  as  to  the  servile  criminal  code. 


for  the  case,  naturally,  was  mentioned  by  me  with 
reprobation,  after  my  arrival  in  St.  Christopher,  to 
persons  of  both  sexes,  whom  I  met  with  there  ; 
and  though  the  cruel  mode  of  execution,  was  con- 
demned by  them,  or  undefended  against  my  cen- 
sures, I  could  easily  perceive,  that  with  few  excep- 
tions, their  feelings  on  the  subject  were  by  no 
means  responsive  to  my  own.  And  as  to  the  mode 
of  trial,  and  conduct  of  the  court,  they  were  little,  if 
at  all,  disposed  to  concur  in  my  strictures ;  but  rather 
to  extenuate  or  defend  such  proceedings,  which  I 
soon  found  were  in  unison  with  those  in  use  among 
themselves,  on  the  score  of  the  bad  characters  of 
slaves  in  general,  and  the  difficulty  of  extorting  truth 
from  them,  when  under  examination,  as  to  their  own 
crimes,  or  those  of  their  brethren. 

I  was  indebted,  in  short,  to  this  early  and  impres- 
sive view  of  slavery,  and  the  cruel  prejudices  in- 
spired by  it,  for  the  resolution  that  I  immediately 
formed,  and  declared,  never  to  become  the  owner  of 
a  slave  ;  and  if  I  have  contributed  in  any  degree  to 
the  abolition  of  the  slave  trade,  or  shall  ever  have 
the  happiness  to  promote  the  deliverance  of  its  much 
injured  victims  in  our  colonies,  the  blood  that  was 
cruelly  shed  at  Bridgetown,  forty-seven  years  ago, 
was  not  shed  in  vain. 

I  trust  that  the  statement  of  this  case  on  my  own 
unsupported  authority,  will  not  be  thought  a  de- 
parture from  the  rule  which  I  stand  pledged  to  ad- 
here to  in  the  body  of  this  work.  I  shall  found  no 
argument  or  general  observation  upon  it ;  nor  is  it 
referable  to  any  part  of  the  system  that  I  have  here  to 


delineate.  Neither  can  it  be  my  aim  to  insinuate, 
that  like  cruel  executions  are  still  in  use  ;  for  I  freely 
avow  my  belief  of  the  contrary,  and  that  in  most,  if 
not  all  the  colonies,  where  they  had  been  deemed 
legal,  they  are  now  prohibited  by  positive  law. 

iVs  to  the  general  spirit  of  public  injustice  and 
inhumanity  towards  slaves,  which  the  case  exempli- 
fies, this,  had  a  retrospective  view  of  it  been  my 
object,  might  have  been  shewn  to  have  prevailed  in 
the  same  island,  at  a  much  more  recent  period 
I  might  have  cited,  for  instance,  those  shocking  cases 
in  the  official  correspondence  of  Lord  Seaford,  which 
were  printed  by  parliament ;  and  the  long-continued 
resistance  of  the  colony  of  Barbadoes,  when  soli- 
cited by  His  Majesty's  government  to  protect  their 
slaves  from  wilful  murder,  by  annexing  to  the  crime 
its  proper  punishment,  instead  of  a  fine  of  fifteen 
pounds ;  though  several  atrocious  cases  of  slave 
murder  had  then  recently  shown  the  barbarous 
effects  of  such  impunity. 

I  see  no  objection,  therefore,  to  my  prefixing  to 
my  work  this  personal  narrative,  though  supported 
by  my  own  testimony  alone,  as  tending  to  reconcile 
without  a  boast,  my  own  early  and  lasting  antipathy 
to  negro  slavery,  with  that  long  exposure  to  its 
local  influences,  by  which  many  better  men  have 
been  reconciled  to  it,  at  the  expence  of  their  native 

After  all,  the  plan  of  my  present  work  is  such,  I 
repeat,  as  to  make  the  credit  of  its  author,  or  the 
sources  of  his  anti-slavery  feelings,  of  little  or  no 
importance.     1  need,  and  1  desire,  no  confidence  in 


the  writer ;  but  only  in  the  admissions  of  those  by 
whom  his  general  views  and  practical  objects  are 

There  is  one  probable  objection  to  my  labours, 
against  which  it  may  be  important  to  guard.  In 
pleading  the  case  of  the  unfortunate  slaves,  I  may 
be  supposed  agere  actum ;  needlessly  to  advocate  a 
reformation  already  resolved  upon,  and  in  progress ; 
and  on  the  completion  of  which  His  Majesty's  pre- 
sent government  is  sufficiently  intent.  But  it  has 
been  a  leading  object  of  my  work  to  prove,  that  no 
measures  hitherto  taken,  or  known  to  be  in  contem- 
plation, either  for  terminating  slavery,  or  mitigating 
its  enormous  evils,  have  any  real  tendency  to  pro- 
mote those  very  important  and  necessary  ends. 

So  clear  and  demonstrable  is  this  truth,  that  were 
it  in  my  power  to  cancel  all  that  has  been  done  for 
carrying  into  effect  the  resolutions  of  May  1823,  1 
should  not  hesitate  to  do  so  ;  at  least  if  I  could  re- 
store to  the  public  mind  that  simplicity  of  concep- 
tion and  feeling  on  the  subject,  which  then  prevailed i 

The  duty  of  delivering  the  country  from  the  guilt 
and  shame  of  slavery,  has  been  solemnly  recognized 
by  the  government  and  legislature  ;  but  the  means 
resolved  upon  were  utterly  inadequate  in  their  plan  ; 
and  in  their  feeble  and  vacillating  application,  have 
proved  worse  than  useless.  They  have  embarrassed 
and  retarded,  rather  than  advanced,  the  work  of  real 
reformation.  They  have  contirmed  and  strengthened 
the  resistance  of  its  enemies  ;  and  weakened  and  di- 
vided its  friends.  For  one  dispute  on  the  general 
principle,  a  hundred  have  been  substituted  on  the 


practical  details  ;  and  while  objects  too  minute  to  be 
worth  contending-  for,  or  of  no  real  value  at  all,  have 
given  birth  to  complex  and  voluminous  discussions, 
distracting  the  attention,  both  of  the  government  and 
the  public;  the  worst,  the  most  destructive,  and 
most  general,  of  the  oppressions  under  which  the 
poor  slaves  are  daily  groaning  and  perishing,  are  left 
unremedied,  unattended  to,  and  almost  forgot. 

It  is  to  demonstrate  the  reality,  and  the  enormity 
of  these  general  and  standing  oppressions,  that  I 
now  address  myself  to  the  public.  It  is  to  prove 
what  I  have  always  maintained,  that  a  merciless 
excess  of  forced  labour,  exacted  by  means  as  merci- 
less, and  its  ordinary  concomitants,  badness  and 
scantiness  of  food,  are  the  main  evils,  the  former 
especially,  by  which  the  field  negroes  on  sugar 
plantations  are  afflicted,  worn  down,  and  destroyed ; 
that  these  economical  oppressions,  give  birth  and 
tenacity  to  all  the  rest ;  and  that  till  these  are  cor-' 
rected,  all  other  means  for  improving  the  condition 
of  the  slaves  physically,  intellectually,  or  morally, 
or  for  preserving  their  declining  race  even  from  de- 
struction, will  be  found  perfectly  vain  and  useless. 

These  propositions  certainly  are  not  new ;  and  as 
to  the  existence  of  such  oppressions,  they  have  been 
so  often  admitted,  that  a  man  who  has  read  much 
of  the  public  evidence  and  controversial  pieces, 
though  only  the  colonial  side,  cannot  possibly  enter- 
tain a  doubt  of  their  frequent  occurrence.  The 
question  with  him  can  only  be  as  to  their  degree, 
and  their  general  prevalence. 

But  with  a  large  part  of  the  British  public,  it  will 


be  matter  of  painful  novelty  to  find  to  what  a  truly 
enormous  extent,  these  avaricious  excesses  have  been 
carried,  and  still  prevail ;  not  in  particular  cases 
merely,  but  in  general  and  ordinary  practice ;  and 
with  what  strict  demonstration  these  can  be  proved  to 
be  the  sources  of  almost  every  other  species  of  op- 
pression that  humanity  has  to  lament,  in  the  treat- 
ment of  plantation  slaves. 

But  how  to  remedy  these  baneful  evils,  while 
slavery  exists,  is  a  difficult  problem  indeed ;  and  I 
can  suggest  no  practical  solution  of  it,  that  would 
not  be  attended  with  difficulties  as  great,  and  op- 
posed by  the  planters  as  pertinaciously,  as  the  disso- 
lution of  the  state  itself.  If  any  such  remedy  can 
be  discovered  by  others,  my  labours  may  assist  their 
researches  ;  as  the  first  step  towards  the  cure  of  what 
is  morbid  in  the  natural  or  civil  body,  is  the  ascer- 
tainment of  the  nature  and  extent  of  the  disease. 

But  the  result,  in  my  mind,  of  long  experience 
and  anxious  reflection,  aided  by  a  familiar  acquaint- 
ance with  the  calamitous  case,  during  great  part  of 
a  long  life,  is,  that  the  stern  relation  of  master  and 
slave  admits  of  no  effectual  modification  by  law  ; 
that  to  limit  its  extent  or  duration,  is  the  only  real 
p'elliative  of  its  enormous  mischiefs,  and  its  abolition 
their  only  cure. 

*  My  manuscript  has  been  sent  to  press  in  different  portions  and  at  dif- 
ferent times,  as  I  progressively  was  able  to  prepare  it,  during  nearly  a  year 
past;  which  it  may  be  necessary  to  observe,  in  order  to  avoid  the  appcara^ioe 
of  anachronisms,  in  tj-.e  notice  of  different  publications,  a?  having  just  ap- 
peared, or  met  my  eye^  at  certain  jXii>iti  uf  my  piorness. 






Reasons  for  resuming  this  Work;  Defence  of 
THE  First,  and  Plan  of  the  Second  Volume  ..       1 

[The  object  of  the  work  is  to  prove  the  excessive  labour 
exacted  from  the  slaves,  and  the  extreme  parsimony  of  the 
master  in  their  maintenance  and  comfort,  — Sources  of  de- 
lusion on  these  points. — The  author  relies  in  this,  as  in  his 
former  volume,  exclusively  on  adverse  testimony; — asserts 
his  right  to  employ  an  adversary's  admissions  in  disproof  of 
his  statements ; — and  defends  his  former  volume  from  the 
misrepresentations  of  his  opponents,  and  particularly  of  Mr. 
Alexander  Barclay. — Appreciation  of  the  early  testimonies  of 
high  naval  and  military  officers,  and  West  Indian  Governors,  in 
favour  of  slavery  ;  their  total  want  of  truth  being  now  admitted, 
either  directly  or  virtually,  by  the  modern  advocates  of  slavery, 
Mr.  Macdonnell,  Mr.  Barclay,  and  others  ;  and  established  by 
the  testimony  of  Dr.  Collins. — Contradictory  representations 
and  illusory  proceedings  of  West  Indians  at  home  and  abroad. 
—  Explanation  of  the  plan  of  this  volume,  which  is  confined 
to  an  exhibition  of  the  actual  state  of  the  predial  slaves  on 
sugar  plantations,  and  of  the  oppressions  as  to  labour,  food, 
and  general  treatment,  to  which  they  are  subject.] 

b  2 




Of  Agricultural  Labour  in  the  Torrid  Zone, 

AND     THE     PERNICIOUS     EfFECTS      OF     ITS     ExCESS 

[Exhausting  effects  of  hard  labour,  in  tropical  climates,  on 
negroes  as  well  as  Europeans.  —  Compensatory  provisions  of 
the  Great  Author  of  nature. — Testimony  of  Major  Moody 
accompanied  by  remarks  on  his  "  Philosophy  of  Labour."  — 
Deplorable  effects  of  coerced  labour  on  the  indigenous 
inhabitants  of  St.  Domingo. — Testimony  of  Dr.  Collins  to 
the  pernicious  effects  of  excessive  labour.] 


The  high  Probability  that  the  Amount  of 
FORCED  Labour  on  Sugar  Plantations  is  op- 
pressively AND  destructively  EXCESSIVE,  DE- 
duced from  the  natural  tendency  of  the 
System  ;  and  confirmed  by  the  Decline  of 
Population  AMONG  the  PREDIAL  Slaves   57 

Sect.  I .  —  Natural  Tendencies  of  the  System    ib. 

[Comparison  of  the  influence  of  freedom  and  of  slavery  in 
fixing  a  proper  criterion  of  labour.  —  Strong  tendency  to  an 
undue  exaction  of  labour  on  sugar  plantations. —  The  argu- 
ment for  the  lenient  tendency  of  the  system,  drawn  from 
motives  of  self-interest  in  the  master,  considered  and  refuted. 
— Alleged  dislike  of  the  Colonists  to  the  continuance  of  the 
slave  trade  shewn  to  be  unfounded.] 

Sect.  2.  —  Decline  of  Population  among  the  Slaves  on  Sugar 
Estates 76 

[This  calamity  peculiar  to  sugar  cultivation.  —  Increase  of 
slaves  in  the  United  States,  and  of  free  negroes  in  Hayti. — 
Proofs  to  the  same  effect,  furnished  by  the  Council  of  Trinidad.] 




The  actual  ordinary  Details  and  general 
Amount,  in  Point  of  Time,  of  forced  Labour 
ON  Sugar  Plantations  particularly  stated 
and  proved  ;  and  the  cruel  Excess  demon- 
strated          82 

Sect.  1.  —  Introductory  Remarks;  and  Divisions  of  the 
Subject  of  this  Chapter    , ib. 

[The  intensity  of  labour  cannot  be  accurately  measured ; 
but  its  duration,  in  point  of  time,  maybe  measured. —  Com- 
parison proposed  of  the  ordinary  duration  of  agricultural 
labour  in  England  and  in  the  West  Indies.] 

Sect.  2.  —  The  Labour  is  cruelly  excessive  in  point  of 
Time 84 

[Mr.  Ramsay's  statements  on  this  subject.  —  Opposino- 
statements  of  Colonial  advocates  and  witnesses,  with  their 

discrepancies  and  contradictions.  — Jamaica  Act  of  1788. 

Testimonies  of  Messrs.  Beckford,  Tobin,  Willock,  B.  Edwards, 
Dela  Beche,&c. — The  delusions  of  Colonial  advocates  on  this 
subject  detected;  —  evidence  of  Dr.  Collins,  Mr.  Thomas, 
Mr.  Dwarris,  and  Marly.  —  Misrepresentations  of  Mr.  Mac- 
queen  exposed.  —  Extent  of  twilight  in  the  West  Indies. 

The  evidence  of  Mr.  Stewart  and  others  of  Jamaica,  and  of 
Mr.  Dwarris,  as  well  as  of  Colonial  Acts,  in  proof  that  field- 
labour  occupies  eleven  hours   and   a   half  of  each  day. 

Additional  exactions  of  slave  labour,  arising  from  the  distance 
of  the  field  from  the  homestall  ;  from  the  quality  and  unpre- 
pared state  of  the  food  allowed  them  ;  from  the  toil  of  col- 
lecting grass  for  the  cattle  after  the  hours  of  field  labour ; 
and  from  the  night-work  of  crop. — All  these  oppressive  aggra- 
vations of  the  labours  of  the  field  proved  by  a  variety  of 
testimonies,  including  Mr.  Dwarris,  Mr.  De  la  Beche,  Dr. 
Collins,  the  slave  protector  of  Berbice,  and  Mr.  Mitchell  of 
Trinidad.  —  Duration  of  the  season  of  crop.  —  Estimate  of  the 
average  duration  of  the  slave's  daily  labour  throughout  the 
year.  —  Comparison  of  West  India  slavery  with  that  of  the 
Israelites  in  Egypt.  —  Strictures  on  the  theory  of  Major 




The  Labour  shewn  to    be    excessive    also,   for 

THE  most  part,   IN    POINT    OF  INTENSITY,  OR  THE 

[Probabilities  of  the  case. — Intense  labour  of  holing  or 
digging  cane-holes.  —  Celerity  of  movement  required  in  the 
work  of  distributing  manure  &c. — Privation  of  rest,  and  in- 
tensity and  continuity  of  labour  during  crop. — These  oppres- 
sions proved  by  a  variety  of  testimony,  and  particularly  that 
of  Mr.  Campbell  and  Mr.  Bailey  of  Grenada,  Mr.  Tobin  of 
Nevis,  Mr.  Willock,  Sir  Ashton  Byam,  and  Dr.  Athill  of 
Antigua,  Mr.  Beckford  of  Jamaica,  and  Barre  de  St.  Venant 
of  St.  Domingo.] 


Comparison  of  the  Amount  of  Slave  Labour 
ON  Sugar  Plantations  with  that  of  Agri- 
cultural Labourers  in  England 184 

[Assertions  of  West  Indian  witnesses  and  advocates  (Mr. 
Baillie,  Lord  Lavington,  Mr.  Macqueen  &c.),  respecting  the 
comparative  lightness  of  slave  labour,  disproved  by  a  view  of 
the  general  duration  of  daily  labour  in  England.] 


The  Means  by  which  Labour  is  enforced  on 
Sugar  Plantations  greatly  aggravates  its 
Severity,  and  are  in  their  Nature  and  ef- 
fects extremely    cruel  and  pernicious  ....  192 

Sect.  1 .     Preliminary  Remarks 192 

[The  driving  system  no  longer  denied  as  heretofore,  but 
avowed  and  defended.] 

Sect.  2.     Driving  described 193 

[The  nature  of  this  practice  exemplified  in  the  process  of 
digging  cane-holes.] 


Sect.  3.     Denials  and  Misrepresentations  of  the  practice 

stated  and  refuted 195 

[Practice  denied  by  Colonial  proprietors  in  Parliament;  by 
Mr.  Dallas  ;  by  Mr.  Macqueen;  by  the  Council  and  Assembly 
of  St. Vincents,  and  by  Mr.  Dwarris; — and  their  misrepresen- 
tations on  the  subject  completely  refuted  by  Dr.  Collins,  him- 
self a  Planter  of  St.  Vincent ;  by  the  Council  of  Barbadoes  ; 
by  Mr.  De  la  Beche,  and  Mr.  Stewart  of  Jamaica;  and  by 
Mr.  M'Donnell,  the  Secretary  of  the  associated  planters  of 
Demerara,  who  affirms  driving  to  be  the  peculiar  charac- 
teristic, and  unavoidable  attendant  of  Slavery.] 

Sect.  4.     The  cruel    and  pernicious  nature  of  the  practice 

stated  and  proved   214 

[Driving  is  the  characteristic  and  most  opprobrious  feature 
of  the  system. — The  dreadful  effects  of  this  brutal  coercion 
shewn  by  Mr.  Stewart,  Dr.  Collins  and  Mr.  De  la  Beche. — 
The  apologies  advanced  for  driving  examined.  Complaints, 
and  redress  of  the  sufferers  by  this  practice,  impossible.  Ge- 
neral character  of  those  who  administer  it — Overseers,  mana- 
gers and  attorneys  of  plantations.] 

Sect.  5.     The  only  remedy  for  those  mischiefs  compatible 

with  forced  labour  is  individual  task-work 231 

[Unjust  and  cruel  effects  of  the  driving  method  of  coercion 
proved  by  Mr.  Stewart,  Mr.  de  la  Beche,  Mr.  Roughley,  a 
Jamaica  planter,  and  Dr.  Collins ;  and,  by  the  latter  especially, 
its  cruel  effects  on  the  sick  and  weakly. — Exposure  of  Colo- 
nial impostures  on  this  subject. — The  blame  of  its  destructive 
severity  attaches  not  to  the  drivers,  or  even  chiefly  to  the 
overseers  and  managers,  but  to  the  unnatural  system  itself.] 


The  Maintenance  of  the  Plantation  Slaves  is 

IN    A    VERY    oppressive  AND  CRUEL  DeGREE    PAR- 

Sect.  1.     The  proposition  shewn  to  be  highly  probable  from 

the   nature  of  the  case ib. 



[Probabilities  of  this  parsimony  arising  from  avarice  armed 
with  power ;  and  from  the  temptations  produced  by  pecuniary 
distress  and  by  competition.  —  Those  who  are  guilty  of  an 
undue  CAaction  of  labour,  are  not  likely  to  be  liberal  either  of 
food,  or  of  time  for  raising  it. — Feelings  of  humanity  form  no 
quate  counterbalance  to  such  temptations. 


Sect.  3. —  Different  modes  of  feeding  the  slaves  in  different 

[In  Jamaica  and  many  other  Islands,  the  slaves  are  sub- 
sisted by  the  produce  of  their  own  provirion  grounds,  culti- 
tivated  on  Sunday,  and  a  few  days  besides. — In  the  Leward 
Islands,  they  are  chiefly  fed  by  imported  provisions  ;  and  in 
Barbadoes,  Demerara,  and  Berbice,  chiefly  by  allowances  of 
provisions,  raised,  on  the  ordinary  days  of  labour,  by  the 
compulsory  labour  of  the  whole  gang.] 

Sect.  IV. —  Of  the  mode  and  measure   of  subsistence  in  the 

home-fed  colonies 264 

[Difficulty  of  ascertaining  the  measure  of  food,  when  the 
slaves  grow  their  own  provisions. — In  this  case  the  deficiency 
of  the  supply  can  only  be  proved  by  circumstantial  evidence. 

—  The  testimony  of  Dr.  Collins  on  this  subject. — Sunday 
employed  by  the  slaves  in  labouring  in  their  provision  grounds. 

—  Distance  of  those  grounds  from  the  home-stall.  —  Slaves 
less  scantily  fed  in  home-fed  than  in  foreign-fed,  colonies.  — 
The  time  required  for  raising  food.] 

Sect.   V.  —  Of  the   subsistence   in  foreign-fed   colonies   in 

respect  of  its  ordinary  nature  and  amoniit 277 

[Statements  of  Mr.  Ramsay,  and  Mr.Tobin ;  of  Dr.  Collins  ; 
and  of  various  other  witnesses  ;  as  to  the  quantity  of  the  food 
allowed. — The  careful  suppression  by  West  Indian  advocates 
of  the  documentary  evideiice  in  their  possession  on  this  point. 
— The  regulations  of  the  law  of  the  Leeward  Islands  prove 
the  extreme  scantiness  of  the  subsistence  allowed  to  the 
slaves.  —  The  allowances  prescribed  by  that  law  compared 
with  those  of  the  Bahamas,  and  of  the  prisons  in  Jamaica. — 
The  alleged  further  advantages  possessed  by  the  slaves,  of 
marketing,  &c.  considered. — The  extreme  unfairness  of  West 
Indian  advocates  in  their  representations  on  these  points.] 



Sect.  VI. — The  subsistence  of  the  slaves  shewn  from  com- 
parative views  to  be  extremely  scanty  and  inade- 
quate     305 

[A  comparison  of  the  allowances  of  agricultural  slaves  in 
the  foreign-fed  colonies,  with  the  consumption  of  agricultural 
labourers  in  England,  and  with  English  prison  allowances ; 
with  the  allowances  also  to  the  slaves  in  the  Bahamas,  and  in 
the  prisons  and  workhouses  of  Jamaica,  and  with  those  made 
to  slaves  in  the  United  States,  Brazil,  arid  the  colonies  of 
Spain  and  France. — Testimony  of  Dr.  Collins  as  to  the 
insufficiency  of  food. — The  state  of  the  West  Indian  slaves 
in  this  respect,  compared  with  that  of  the  Israelites  in  Egypt ; 
of  the  villeins  in  England  ;  and  of  the  slaves  in  ancient 
Greece  and  Rome. — Exposure  of  the  grossly  fallacious  state- 
ments of  colonial  witnesses,  as  to  the  extent  of  the  property, 
and  the  accumulations,  and  hidden  riches  of  slaves. — 
The  question  considered  with  a  view  to  the  means  of  the 
slaves  to  redeem  themselves. — Reasons  why  their  right  of 
self  redemption  is  so  strenuously  resisted  by  the  colonists. — 
Comparative  facilities  of  manumission  that  were  enjoyed  by 
Greek  and  Roman  slaves,  and  by  English  villeins,] 


The  Allowances  of  Clothing  to  the  Field 
Negroes  by  their  Owners  is  also  in  a 
shameful  Degree  penurious  and  insuffici- 
ent     342 

[The  false  representations  on  this  subject  given  by  Mr. 
Barclay  and  other  individuals,  and  by  public  bodies,  com- 
pared with  the  lav/  and  the  practice. — Counter-statements  of 
Dr.  Collins. — Tlie  colonists  challenged  to  produce  the  au- 
thentic documents  in  their  possession  of  the  clothing  allowed 
their  slaves. — Their  total  destitution  of  shoes,  and  the  many 
injurious  effects  caused  by  the  want  of  them. —Consumption 
of  shoes  by  the  Haytian  population.] 

xlii  CONTENTS. 



The  Slaves  are  very  badly  lodged   359 

[Testimony  of  Dr.  Collins  on  this  point. — Misapprehen- 
sions to  which  strangers  and  casual  visitants  are  exposed 
respecting  it;  and  which  are  increased  by  the  deceptive 
statements  of  colonists.] 


The  Slaves  are  also  treated  with  great  Harsh- 
ness, Neglect,  and  Inhumanity  when  sick  ..  362 

[Strong  and  decisive  testimony  of  Dr.  Collins  on  this  sub- 
ject.— The  plantation  sick-house,  most  improperly  termed  a 
hospital,  described. — It  is  not  only  an  apartment  for  the  sick 
but  for  the  confinement  of  delinquents  awaiting  punishment, 
or  already  lacerated  by  its  infliction. — A  further  reference  to 
the  testimony  of  Dr.  Collins  and  also  of  Mr.  Beckford.] 


The  whole  Expense  of  the  Maintenance  of 
Plantation  Slaves  estimated  and  compared 
with  the  cost  of  Free  Labour 374 

[The  respective  statements  on  this  subject  of  Mr.  Ramsay 
and  his  opponent  Mr.  Tobin. — The  remarkable  reluctance  al- 
ways shewn  by  Colonial  advocates  and  Colonial  authorities  to 
afford  information  on  this  point ;  and  the  consequent  want 
of  data  for  a  correct  estimate. —  A  document  produced  which 
shews  that  the  expense  of  supplies  from  Europe  did  not  ex- 
ceed \2s.  a  slave. — Immense  disproportion  of  the  expense 
caused  by  the  maintenance  of  the  slave,  and  by  that  of  the 
free  labourer  in  England. — Effects  of  the  prevailing  pecuniary 
distress  of  the  planters,  and  also  of  their  prosperity,  on  the 
happiness  and  comfort  of  the  slaves.] 

CONTENTS.  xliii 



Concluding  and  practical  Reflections 387 

[The  preceding  pages  prove  slavery  to  be  a  disgrace  to 
Great  Britain. — Its  monstrous  injustice  and  inhumanity  insisted 
upon  —  Such  a  system  ought  not  to  be  permitted  to  exist. — 
The  time  and  manner  of  its  abolition,  and  the  claim  of 
compensation  considered  ; — Mr.  Pitt's  view  of  compensation. 
—  Large  profits  of  the  planter  hurtful  to  the  slave.  —  A 
warning  voice  to  the  legislature,  and  the  nation ;  calling  them 
to  consider  the  disturbed  state  of  Europe,  and  -the  various 
events  that  have  evinced  the  divine  displeasure  with  the  succes- 
sive Governments  of  France,  Spain,  Portugal,  and  Holland, 
for  their  obstinate  adherence  to  the  slave  trade  and  slavery. 
— The  peculiar  case  of  Great  Britain  considered  in  this  view. 
— The  conduct  to  be  pursued  in  the  approaching  session  of 
parliament. — The  utter  hopelessness  of  reform  by  colonial 
means,  shewn  in  the  abortive  results  of  the  resolutions  of  Mr. 
Ellis,  in  1797,  and  of  Mr.  Canning,  in  May' 1823.— It  is  our 
duty  no  longer  to  look  to  modifications  of  slavery,  but  to  its 
extinction. — The  various  modifications  proposed  are  all  more 
or  less  objectionable. — The  prayer  of  the  people  of  this 
country  ought  to  be  simply  for  the  abolition  of  slavery, 
leaving  the  detail  of  means  to  government  and  parliament. — 
Reprehensible  policy  of  the  Government  in  respect  to  this 
question.  The  fatal  effects  of  the  failure  of  the  Registry 
Bill  of  1826,  and  of  the  wholly  ineflftcient  substitutes  for  it 
since  adopted  by  the  colonists  and  accepted  by  the  crown. — 
The  author's  vindication  of  himself  from  the  charges  of  incon- 
sistency brought  against  him  by  Lord  Seaford,  and  other 
colonial  advocates. — The  resolutions  of  May  1823,  contuma- 
ciously resisted  by  the  colonists. — Outrageous  conduct  of  the 
Jamaica  legislature;  their  persecuting  spirit  and  enactments ; 
and  their  unwarrantable  resistance  not  only  to  the  recom- 
mendations of  the  imperial  legislature,  but  to  inquiry  by  the 
executive  authority  of  the  crown  into  the  due  administration  of 
justice. — The  case  of  the  Rev.  G.  W.  Bridges.- — No  beneficial 
change  to  be  hoped  for,  except  from  the  direct  intervention  of 
parliament. — The  power  of  West  Indian  influence  in  parlia- 
ment, and  with  the  government. — The  abolition  of  slavery 
can  alone  cureitsevils. — The  hopes  entertained  even  of  any  ma- 
terial effect  from  a  concession  of  the  right  of  self-redemption 
was  vain  and  illusory ;  and  now  that  the  West  Indian  commit- 
tee at  home  make  common  cause  against  it,  with  their  brethren 
abroad,  the  case  is  still  more  hopeless. — The  danger  of  longer 
delaying  to  decide  this  question — not  merely  dangers  of  excite- 
menamongthe  slaves  from  frustrated  hopes,  butofincreaseddis- 

xliv  CONTENTS. 


affection  at  home,  even  among  the  most  moral  and  chris- 
tian part  of  the  community ;  provided  padiament  and 
government  shall  continue  to  reject  the  universal  prayer  of 
the  nation  to  let  the  oppressed  go  free.] 


Cases  of  Cruelty,  indicating  the  general 
Prevalence,  in  the  Sugar  Colonies,  of  In- 
sensibility TO  THE  Sufferings  of  Slaves, 
AND  an  Indisposition  to  restrain  or  punish 
THE  Authors  of  such  Offences.. 415 

No  1. —  The  cruelties  related  by  Mr.  G.  H.  Smith,  with  the 
proceedings  against  liim  of  the  magistrates  of  Westmore- 
land, and  the  Assembly  of  Jamaica 416 

No.  2. — Presentment  of  a  grand  Jury  in  St.  Christopher,  ex- 
tracted from  a  paper  printed  by  order  of  the  House  of 
Commons  of  May  1,  1827 ' 43G 

No.  3. — Conviction  in  the  Bahama  Islands,  for  cruelty  to  a 
female  slave  called  Kate,  extracted  from  papers  jjrinted 
by  order  of  the  House  of  Commons  of  March  27,  1829  . . 

No.  4. — Account  of  the  treatment  of  the  slaves  on  two  uni- 
ted estates,  called  Fahies,  and  Ortons,  in  the  Island  of 
St.  Christopher,  and  the  fatal  effects  that  folloiced . .  . .    442 









Th  e  two  grand  divisions  of"  this  work  proposed  at  the  outset, 
were,  first,  a  delineation  of  slavery  in  a  theoretic  view,  as  a 
legal  institution ;  and  secondly,  a  delineation  of  the  state  in 
respect  of  its  practical  nature  and  effects.  Thor  former  part 
of  my  task  has  been  performed  ;  the  latter  has  been  long  re- 
tarded, and  still  remains  to  be  accomplished. 

While  many  readers  of  my  former  volume  have  expressed 
some  impatience  of  desire  for  the  appearance  of  the  present ; 
others,  perhaps,  have  thought  that  this  part  of  my  plan  might 
be  conveniently  and  properly  laid  aside ;  considering  how  much 
the  practice  of  slavery  has,  during  the  last  five  years,  been 
discussed  before  the  public  by  other  writers,  whose  principles 
are  in  accordance  with  my  own. — To  a  large  part  of  the  com- 
munity, it  may  seem  that  the  great  objects  of  my  labours,  the 
mitigation  and  gradual  abolition  of  slavery,  are  virtually  at- 

VOL.   II.  u 

2  Reasons  for 

tained  or  secured  ;  and  that  the  Parliamentary  resolutions  of 
May,  1823,  with  the  consequent  measures  of  Government, 
have  made  this  sequel  of  my  vv^ork  useless,  at  least,  if  not 
even  adverse  to  my  purpose. 

That  such  views  have  been  entertained  by  many,  even 
among  the  sincere  friends  of  the  anti-slavery  cause,  I  well 
know  and  lament ;  and  have  reason  to  fear  that  they  may 
still  widely  prevail ;  for,  though  those  measures  have  been 
nearly  fruitless  in  all  the  colonies,  and  in  some  of  them  the 
solicitations  of  the  Crown,  and  the  voice  of  Parliament  have 
been  treated  with  the  utmost  contempt  and  defiance  by  the 
Assemblies ;  their  agents  and  partizans  in  this  country  have 
played  a  far  more  politic  game,  labouring  indefatigably  to 
persuade  the  British  Public  that  opposition  in  language  has 
been  accompanied,  in  some  measure  at  least,  with  practical 
compliance  ;  that  the  Planters  and  Assemblies,  like  the  son 
in  the  parable,  while  answering  to  the  parental  command 
"  I  go  not,"  have  actually  gone  into  the  field  :  that  much  has 
been  already  done,  and  that  patience  on  our  part,  alone  is 
wanting  to  make  their  obedience  entire. 

In  my  last  publication,  "  Enghnid  enslaved  hy  her  own  Slave 
Colonies,"  I  endeavored  to  shew  the  erroneousness  and  the 
fatal  tendency  of  such  opinions ;  but  not,  I  fear,  with  suffi- 
cient general  effect  on  the  public  mind ;  and  if  any  of  the 
real  friends  of  reformation  still  indulge  a  false  security,  and 
condemn  as  needless,  further  attempts  to  excite,  on  the  right 
side,  the  feeling  of  the  British  people,  one  effort  only  remains 
by  which  I  can  hope  to  disabuse  them ;  the  laborious  and 
painful  one,  which  again  employs  my  pen.  If  any  thing  can 
effectually  serve  to  dispel  the  delusions  that  prevail,  and 
satisfy  reasoning  minds  that  slavery  has  not  been,  nor  with- 
out parliamentary  legislation  ever  will  be,  reformed,  it  is  such 
means  as  I  have  long  since  engaged  to  supply  ;  a  development 
and  demonstration  of  the  true  practical  nature  and  fixed  prin- 
ciples of  the  system,  not  in  its  particular,  but  general  ad- 
ministration, deduced  exclusively  from  the  evidence  of  those 
by  whom  it  is  defended  and  maintained. 

In  proposing  remedies  for  the  inveterate,  deeply  seated, 
and  deadly  disease  of  colonial  slavery,  I  have  to  encounter 
difficulties  like  those  of  a  faithful  well-informed   physician, 

resuming  this  Work.  3 

whose  patient  has  been  long  in  the  hands  of  deluded  friends, 
and  self-interested  crafty  practitioners  ;  both  adverse,  though 
on  different  views,  to  the  only  possible  means  of  cure.  The 
former,  from  groundless  apprehensions  of  danger  in  the  right 
and  only  effectual  course,  are  trusting  to  wretched  palliatives, 
which  are  of  no  real  use  even  in  the  way  of  mitigation, 
while  the  latter  are  applying  them,  and  alleging  good  ef- 
fects from  their  inchoate  use,  merely  to  support  their  own 
credit,  and  keep  the  patient  longer  in  their  own  mercenary 
hands.  The  physician  is  aware,  that  to  dispel  the  delusion 
will  be  not  only  a  difficult,  but  a  thankless  and  invidious 
office ;  but  sees  there  is  no  other  expedient  to  prevent  a  fatal 
termination.  To  obtain  the  use  of  truly  efficacious  means, 
he  must  convince  the  too  confident  friends  of  the  vanity  of 
their  present  hopes,  and  the  fallacy  of  the  pretended  improve- 
ments, by  exposing  to  them,  however  alarmingly,  the  in- 
veterate constitutional  causes,  the  still  subsisting  malignity, 
and  extreme  danger  of  the  case. 

But  though  the  present  state  of  the  Anti-slavery  cause, 
unhappily,  is  not  such  as  to  absolve  me  from  my  promised 
task,  much  has  been  done  by  enlightened  coadjutors  that 
may  well  justify  a  great  contraction  of  my  plan.  I  refer 
particularly  to  the  work  called  "  Negro  Slavery,"  to  the 
writings  of  The  Reverend  Mr.  Bickill,  and  Mr. 
Cooper,  and  above  all,  to  those  very  valuable  tracts,  Tri  e 
Anti-slavery  Monthly  Reports.  They  contain,  col- 
lectively, such  copious  information  as  to  the  practice  of 
Slavery  in  the  Sugar  Colonies,  that  had  the  writers  adopted 
my  own  plan  of  delineating  Slavery  systematically,  and  in 
its  ordinary  character,  and  relying  only  on  the  evidence  of 
our  opponents,  they  would  have  left  me  little,  if  any  thing, 
to  add  ;  but  though  those  well-informed  writers  have  not 
thought  it  necessary  to  use  such  abstinence  in  respect  of 
evidence  (which  certainly  they  were  no  wise  bound  to  do), 
enough  has  been  proved  by  them  from  irrefragable  authority, 
and  even  out  of  the  mouths  of  the  planters  themselves,  to 
establish  many  of  the  abuses  that  I  meant  to  develop ;  and 
to  refute  decisively  most  of  the  idle  pretences  of  improve- 
ments wiiich  I  should  otherwise  have  had  to  repel. 

B   2 

4  Reasons  fur 

I  shall  be  content  to  leave  in  their  hands  all  that  relates 
to  the  shocking  general  neglect  of  intellectual,  moral,  and 
religious  instruction  ;  to  the  profanation  of  the  Sabbath ;  to 
the  discouragement  of  marriage;  to  the  licentious  and  inde- 
cent treatment  of  females  ;  and  to  excesses  and  barbarities  in 
punishment ;  with  the  non-execution  and  perversion  of  those 
laws  which  profess  to  restrain  such  abuses.  I  shall  abstain 
also  from  adding  to  their  strictures,  or  to  my  own  in  my 
former  works,  on  the  hardships  under  which  the  slaves  labour, 
in  point  of  law  and  practice,  from  their  liability  to  be  sold 
apart  from  their  families,  the  rejection  of  their  evidence,  the 
impediments  to  their  acquisition  of  freedom,  and  its  insecurity 
when  obtained. 

What  then,  it  may  possibly  be  asked,  after  such  a  cata- 
logue of  exclusions,  are  to  be  the  subjects  of  my  delineation 
and  proof?  "  Surely  it  may  be  thought,  most  of,  if  not 
all,  the  evils  of  slavery  must  be  comprised  in  this  enumera- 

Would  to  heaven  that  the  fact  were  so !  —  The  state, 
though  bad  enough,  would  be  merciful  and  mild,  compared 
with  what  it  really  is.  It  would  be  a  case  sufficiently  la- 
mentable and  opprobrious  ;  but  not  such  as  has  harrowed  up 
my  soul  with  unavailing  sympathy  from  youth  to  age;  and 
now  urges  me  to  renew  my  labours,  after  more  than  three 
score  and  eleven  years  have  chilled  my  human  hopes,  be- 
numbed my  faculties,  and  left  me  no  selfish  good  beneath  the 
sun,  so  precious  as  repose  and  peace. 

Numerous  and  cruel  though  the  oppressions  are  by  which 
the  poor  negroes  are  degraded,  tormented,  and  destroyed, 
there  are  two  which  1  have  always  regarded  and  publicly 
denounced  as  by  far  the  worst ;  not  only  because  the  most 
general,  and  the  most  afflictive,  but  because  they  give  birth 
and  virulence  and  tenacity,  to  almost  all  the  rest.  I  mean 
the  trull/  enormous  amount  of  labour  to  which  the  Jie Id  negroes, 
or  ordinary  plantation  slaves,  are  coerced;  and  the  almost  in- 
credible degree  of  parsimony  iifith  lohich  they  are  maintained. 
Most  of  the  other  sufferings  incident  to  their  hapless  state 
are  casual  and  temporary ;  but  these  are  certain  and  pe- 
rennial ;  and  though  mitio;ated   in  a  small  degree  under  the 

resuinbig  this  Work.  5 

more  liberal  of  their  owners,  are,  to  a  great  and  grievous  ex- 
tent, their  universal  lot. 

Such  oppressions  are  also  the  least  likely  to  meet  with 
any  private  restraint  or  correction.  Abuses,  the  effects  of 
anger,  revenge,  or  other  malignant  passions,  in  a  manager, 
overseer,  or  other  subordinate  master,  might  be  expected  to 
be  much  restrained  or  punished  by  the  owner's  authority,  if 
brought  to  his  knowledge  ;  for  in  such  cases  the  interests  of 
proprietors  and  of  slaves  are  clearly  on  the  same  side.  But 
oppressions  of  a  gainful  or  economical  kind,  are  perpetrated 
for  the  owner's  emolument;  and  the  present  sacrifices  ne- 
cessary to  their  correction  are  what  few  sugar  planters  are 
able  if  willing  to  make.  Such  oppressions  also,  when 
established  by  general  usage,  become,  from  the  efi'ects  of 
connnercial  competition,  hardly  capable  of  correction,  without 
ruinous  consequences  to  individuals,  except  by  the  regulations 
of  a  general  and  compulsory  law. 

The  pre-eminence  of  evil  in  these  economical  branches  of 
oppression  will  more  fully  appear,  when  it  shall  be  shewn 
what  cruel  eftects  they  produce,  and  how  large  a  portion  of 
the  other  ordinary  severities  of  the  system  are  their  natural, 
and,  in  great  measure,  inseparable  attendants.  Though  the 
ordinary  discipline  of  the  plantations  is  odious  and  inhuman 
in  its  nature,  the  inflictions  of  the  inndictive,  when  compared 
with  those  of  the  coercive  whip,  are  small  in  their  general 
amount ;  and  the  former,  too,  are,  for  the  most  part,  the  pe- 
nalties of  defaults  to  which  excess  of  labour  and  insufficiency 
of  aliment  give  rise.  Of  every  hundred  stripes,  that  are 
given  on  a  sugar  plantation,  exclusive  of  the  drivers'  coercive 
process,  ninety  or  more  are  inflicted  for  absence  from  the 
field  at  the  appointed  time,  or  the  short  performance  of  a 
solitary  task  ;  and  that  these  delinquencies  are  much  more 
often  the  effects  of  fatigue  and  inanition  than  any  other  cause, 
I  shall  abundantly  prove,  out  of  the  mouths  of  the  planters 

How,  indeed,  can  these  consequences  be  doubted?  If, 
under  a  system  of  forced  labour,  the  work  imposed  is  ex- 
cessive, and  the  quantum  of  food  inadequate,  it  is  manifest 
that  in  proportion  to  the  degree  of  those  economical   oppres- 

6  Reasons  for 

sions,  must  be  the  seventy  of  the  discipline  by  which  they 
are  imposed.  The  resistance  of  nature  can  be  no  otherwise 
overcome.  If  you  would  drive  your  tired  post  horses  another 
stage,  you  must  not  restrain  your  driver  from  the  free  use  of 
his  whip;  still  less  if  they  have  been  also  stinted  in  their  food. 

That  labour,  so  excessive  and  continuous  as  to  leave  the 
common  field  negro  neither  spirits  nor  time  for  any  voluntary 
efforts,  must  preclude  his  intellectual  and  religious  improve- 
ment, his  acquisition  of  property,  and  whatever  else  we  com- 
prise in  the  idea  of  civilization,  is  equally  clear.  In  short, 
this  species  of  oppression,  when  its  cruel  extent  is  proved,  will 
be  plainly  seen  to  be  incompatible  with  all  real  improvements 
in  the  physical  condition  of  the  slaves ;  and  still  more  with 
such  advances  in  the  intellectual  and  moral  scale,  as  are  held 
(whether  rightly  or  not,  I  will  not  in  this  place  enquire)  to  be 
necessary  preparatives  for  the  termination  of  their  bondage. 

For  these  reasons,  then,  while  I  rely  upon  the  writings  of 
my  fellow-labourers,  as  having  exonerated  me  from  a  large 
part  of  the  task  that  I  undertook,  I  feel  the  engagement  still 
binding,  and  the  duty  imperative,  to  delineate  the  general 
practice  of  the  sugar  colonies,  in  regard  to  those  most  import- 
ant articles  of  oppression,  the  extreme  degree  of  forced  labour 
imposed  upon  plantation  slaves,  and  the  great  inadequacy  of 
maintenance  given  in  return. 

Let  me  not  be  understood  to  mean,  that  my  humane  and 
respected  coadjutors  have  wholly  neglected  those  most  inter- 
esting topics.  Enough  has  been  said  by  them  to  shew  that 
their  views  in  these  respects  are  in  general  like  my  own; 
though  the  excess  of  labour  has  not,  in  my  judgment,  had  that 
prominence  among  the  abuses  they  have  exposed,  which  its 
extreme  cruelty  and  pernicious  effects  deserve ;  nor  been 
stated  with  sufficient  circumstantiality  and  precision.  But 
the  grand  and  general  desideratum  they  have  left  me  to  sup- 
ply, is  a  demonstration  of  the  facts  of  the  case  from  irresist- 
ble  evidence;  for  such  I  may  surely  call  testimony  on  the 
anti-slavery  side,  when  cited  from  colonial  tongues  and  colo- 
nial pens  alone.  And  this,  in  respect  of  the  ordinary  amount 
of  forced  labour,  is  of  peculiar  importance ;  because  no  part 
of  the  general  system  has  been  a  subject  of  so  much  assiduous 

resuming  this  Work.  7 

misrepresentation  by  our  opponents ;  nor  is  there  any  other,  I 
believe,  in  respect  of  which  such  wide  misconception  prevails. 
The  quantum  of  daily  work  directly  and  indirectly  exacted 
from  the  field  negroes  has  been  reduced  by  bold  assertions  and 
artful  fallacies  to  less  than  one  half  of  its  actual  ordinary 
amount;  and  this,  by  writers  and  witnesses  whose  statements 
have  been  strongly  accredited  to  the  public  by  their  means  of 
information,  their  characters,  and  stations  in  life.  A  hundred 
colonial  tongues  and  pens  have  not  only  boldly  denied  the 
existence  of  this  most  general  and  notorious  species  of  oppres- 
sion, but  actually  claimed  credit  to  the  Planters  for  wonderful 
moderation  and  liberality  in  the  use  of  their  coercing  power ; 
assuring  us  that  the  labour  of  the  slaves  is  very  light;  nay, 
lighter  by  far  than  that  of  the  free  English  peasant.  This  lat- 
ter proposition,  indeed,  has  long  been  the  chorus  of  their 
common  song; ;  and  incredible  thouoh  the  fiction  will  be  found 
in  its  nature,  when  examined  by  a  reasoning  mind,  yet  such 
is  the  effect  of  bold  reiterated  public  assertion,  that  many,  I 
doubt  not,  believe  it ;  or  regard  it  at  least  as  having  some 
approximation  to  the  truth. 

How,  indeed,  can  I  doubt  this,  or  deem  a  demonstration  of 
the  true  case  superfluous,  when  I  find  the  delusion  still  cur- 
rent even  among  some  eminent  political  economists  and  states- 
men ;  so  as  actually  to  form  an  element  in  their  calculations, 
in  plans  for  the  mitigation  and  gradual  extinction  of  slavery, 
and  for  the  supplanting  it  by  free  labour  in  the  cultivation  of 
sugar  estates?  If  they  had  not  been  grossly  deceived  as  to 
the  actual  amount  of  slave  labour,  they  could  not  regard  it  as 
a  standard  up  to  which,  or  in  any  sustainable  competition 
with  which,  free  men  will  or  ought  to  work  ;  still  less  could 
they  expect  the  improvement  of  the  common  field  negro's* 

*  The  distinction  between  the  great  mass  of  plantation  slaves,  those 
who  wield  the  hoe  and  are  driven,  whom  I  call  "  Field  Negroes,"  or 
'*  Common  Field  Negroes,"  and  the  drivers  and  artificers,  called  "  Head 
Negroes"  is  one  which  I  must  request  my  readers  always  to  bear  in  mind. 
The  apologists  of  the  system  always  artfully  confound  them  together;  and 
it  is  one  of  their  great  engines  of  deception.  The  latter,  from  the  nature 
of  their  occupations,  cannot  be  driven,  or  worked  to  any  destructive  excess. 
The  same  is  more  obviously  the  case  with  domestics. 

8  Reasons  for 

condition,  or  the  attainment  of  his  freedom,  by  the  fruits  of 
supererogatory  toil. 

Another  reason  for  the  exclusive  preference  I  mean  to  give 
to  the  topics  of  labour  and  maintenance  is,  that  the  generality 
of  the  economical  oppressions  they  involve  makes  them  unde- 
niably fair  characteristics,  not  to  say  essential  properties,  of 
the  system  at  large ;  and  will  enable  me  more  clearly  in  the 
sequel  to  prove  the  hopelessness  of  its  reformation  by  West 
Indian  legislators;  or,  in  other  words,  by  the  planters  them- 

When  cases  of  excessive  cruelties,  or  other  particular  abuses 
are  adduced  as  arguments  for  reformation,  the  standing 
answer  is,  "  that  the  instances  of  such  crimes  which  we  have 
"  been  able  to  establish  incontrovertibly  before  the  British 
"  public  are  not  numerous  ;  and  that  it  is  harsh  to  characterize 
"  the  general  practice  by  a  few  rare  instances  of  individual 
"  crimes,  such  as  are  to  be  found  in  every  country,  and  under 
"  the  best  institutions." 

The  defence  is  plainly  fallacious  ;  for  it  infers  the  rarity  of 
the  crime,  from  that  of  its  public  dete'ction  and  proof;  whereas 
one  of  our  most  undeniable  charges  against  the  general  system 
is,  that  the  public  detection  and  proof  of  such  cruel  abuses 
as  slavery  has  manifestly  a  strong  tendency  to  produce,  are 
for  the  most  part  precluded  both  by  manners  and  by  laws. 
The  Lettres  de  Cachet  of  the  old  French  despotism,  the  infer- 
nal practices  of  the  Inquisition,  and  every  other  form  of 
tyranny  on  earth  that  has  shrouded  its  abuses  in  darkness,  by 
the  terror  of  its  power,  and  by  withholding  the  means  of  an 
effectual  appeal  to  the  laws,  might  be  defended  precisely  in  the 
same  way. 

Besides,  these  apologists  always  take  care  to  sink  that  most 
instructive  and  impressive  circumstance  in  such  adduced 
cases,  the  way  in  which  the  crime,  when  brought  to  light,  is 
treated  by  the  magistrates  and  juries,  and  by  the  popular 
feelings  of  the  colony.  A  single  conviction  for  a  crime  natu- 
rally odious  might  serve  to  indicate  its  great  prevalence  in 
any  society,  if  the  criminal,  when  convicted,  not  only  escaped 
from  any  judicial  punishment  at  all  proportionate  to  his 
offence,  and  to  the  dangerous  example  of  its  impunity;  but  lost 
little  or  nothing  of  his  former   credit  or  popularity,  and  was 

resuming  thh   Work.  9 

received  in  the  best  company  as  favourably  as  before.  How 
much  more,  if  the  popular  odium  due  to  the  offender,  was 
transferred  to  those  who  prosecuted,  and  brought  him  to  con- 
viction. * 

Nevertheless,  so  difficult  is  it  for  the  people  of  this  happy 
country  to  conceive  what  the  effects  of  private  slavery  are  on 
the  feelings  of  the  masters,  and  on  the  popular  sentiments  of 
a  community,  all  the  free  members  of  which  are  habituated  to 
that  harsh  relation;  and  so  strongly  does  our  native  humanity 
predispose  us  to  believe  that  our  fellow  subjects  in  the  colonies 
cannot  ordinarily  exercise  with  severity  the  despotic  powers 
which  they  possess  over' their  helpless  dependents,  that  the 
clearest  refutation  of  these  apologies  does  not  wholly  remove 
their  effect.  The  oppression  is  believed  to  be  rare,  merely 
because  it  cannot  be  proved  to  be  common. 

Much  are  such  honest  prepossessions  strengthened,  in  many 
minds,  by  friendship  or  intimacy  with  West  Indians  resident 
among  us :  most  of  whom  are  or  have  been  proprietors  of 
estates  in  the  sugar  colonies,  and  all  of  them  masters  of  slaves. 
I  mean,  not  only  through  the  partial  and  untrue  accounts 
which  such  gentlemen  naturally  give  of  a  system,  in  the  cha- 
racter of  which  their  own  credit  is  involved,  and  which  they 
too  commonly  know  only  from  the  report  of  men  under  the 
same  bias  ;  but  because  nothing  perhaps  has  been  seen  in  their 
manners  when  amongst  us,  to  indicate  feelings  less  liberal  and 
humane  than  our  own.  It  is  therefore  concluded  that  a  sys- 
tem which  such  men  are  engaged  in,  have  perhaps  personally 
administered,  and  are  desirous  to  uphold,  cannot  be,  in  its 
ordinary  chaacter,  extremely  cruel  and  oppressive. 

Such  reasoners  do  not  consider  that  the  stern  relation  of 
slave  master,  one  in  which  the  conduct  of  their  West  Indian 
friend  has  never  met  their  notice,  avowedly  involves  and  de- 

*  Those  who  are  at  all  conversant  with  the  works  of  anti-slavery  writers 
need  not  be  told  that  several  most  impressive  examples  of  such  a  popular 
spirit  in  the  sugar  colonies  have  been  established  beyond  denial.  I  have 
given  one  of  them  in  Appendix,  No.  I.  to  my  first  voluine ;  and  in  an  Ap- 
pendix to  the  present  division  of  my  work  I  mean  to  add  some  very  recent 
and  striking  ones  from  decisive  authorities. 

10  Reasons  for  resuming  this  Work. 

mands  a  discipline  highly  repugnant  to  their  own  benevolent 
feelings.  They  do  not  remember  either  that  the  same  person, 
pei'haps,  or  gentlemen  whose  apparent  suavity  and  benignity  of 
manners  when  in  England  were  not  inferior  to  his,  reconciled 
themselves  to  all  the  now  admitted  atrocities  of  the  inhuman 
slave  trade,  though  it  had  long  existed  under  their  eyes ;  and 
had  opposed  pertinaciously  its  abolition  for  nearly  twenty 
years.  They  do  not  well  estimate  the  powerful  influence  of 
early  prejudice,  habit,  and  example,  in  warping  the  human 
feelings  out  of  their  ordinary  current  towards  a  particular  ob- 
ject ;  and,  what  is  the  main  source  of  these  errors,  they  do  not 
know  (for  West  Indians  here  are  always  careful  to  conceal  it) 
that  in  their  friend's  heart,  there  is  a  wide  partition  between 
the  sympathies  and  duties  that  belong  to  a  white  fellow-being 
and  to  a  black  one.  If  such  considerations  were  not  put  out 
of  the  account,  thinking  men  would  no  more  rely  on  the  humane 
treatment  of  negro  slaves  in  the  West  Indies,  from  what  they 
see  of  their  masters  in  England,  than  on  that  of  the  convicts 
in  the  House  of  Correction,  or  the  patients  in  a  mad-house,  on 
the  score  of  their  keeper's  general  manners  towards  those  who 
are  not  in  his  custody,  or  whose  interference  and  control  he 

Still,  however,  this  source  of  error,  assiduously  cherished 
as  it  is  by  the  colonial  party,  greatly  prejudices  the  cause  of 
the  unfortunate  slaves  ;  among  the  many  grievous  peculiarities 
of  whose  lot  it  is,  that  their  cruel  state  is  unseen  in  the  coun- 
try whose  power  maintains  it,  and  that  they  are  personally 
strangers,  while  their  oppressors  are  companions  and  familiar 
friends,  to  the  lawgivers,  and  the  generous  people,  from  whose 
sympathy  alone  they  can  ever  obtain  relief. 

To  shew  that,  in  the  excessive  exaction  of  labour  at  least, 
the  practice  of  slavery  on  sugar  plantations  is  universally  op- 
pressive and  cruel,  will,  I  am  aware,  be  to  attack  the  adverse 
prejudices  I  have  mentioned  in  their  strongest  intrenchments ; 
but  should  I  succeed  in  such  an  attempt  with  the  public  at 
large,  as  with  patient  and  attentive  readers  I  am  sure  of  doing, 
there  will  be  an  end  of  all  presumptions  in  favour  of  the  sys- 
tem from  the  personal  characters  of  those  who  are  engaged 
in  it. 

Defence  of  the  First  Volume.  1 1 

While  these  considerations  make  the  topics  I  have  selected 
the  most  important,  they  enhance  the  necessity  of  discussing 
them  on  my  own  peculiar  plan  ;  for  nothing  short  of  irresisti- 
ble demonstration  will  suffice  to  vanquish  the  powerful  pre- 
judices and,  willing  credulity,  with  which  I  have  here  to 

In  the  preliminary  chapter  of  the  first  volume,  the  general 
plan  of  the  work  was  opened.  The  most  important  novelty  in 
it  was  that  which  has  been  already  noticed ;  an  engagement 
to  establish  every  fact  controverted  on  the  part  of  the  colonies, 
which  I  should  have  occasion  to  adduce,  by  the  evidence  alone 
of  their  own  assemblies,  witnesses,  and  parti  zans.*  The  un- 
dertaking may  have  seemed  more  bold  than  prudent;  and  was 
certainly  quite  gratuitous  ;  for  the  testimony  copiously  given 
by  eye-witnesses  on  my  own  side  of  the  controversy,  if  be- 
lieved, is  decisive  :  and  on  what  rational  ground  can  confidence 
be  generally  denied  to  it  ?  — I  might  most  reasonably  have 
claimed  for  such  evidence  at  least,  a  great  deal  more  credit  than 
is  due  to  that  of  our  opponents ;  which  has  for  the  most  part 
come  from  persons  as  deeply  interested  in  the  representations 
they  made,  as  a  prisoner  at  the  bar  is  in  his  plea  of  not  guilty  j 
while  to  the  credit  of  the  many  anti-slavery  witnesses  and 
writers,  who  have  described  the  system  from  their  own  personal 
knowledge  of  it,  no  fair  or  specious  objection  can  be  made  '■> 
unless,  indeed,  some  of  our  railing  antagonists  are  right  in  as- 
suming, as  they  seem  to  do,  that  religion  and  philanthropy 
predispose  men  to  calumny  and  falsehood.  But  I  chose  wholly 
to  decline  such  testimony;  because  I  was  anxious  to  place  out 
of  all  possible  doubt  in  fair  and  reasoning  minds,  the  real  na- 
ture of  a  system,  which  owes  its  toleration,  by  this  humane  and 
liberal  land,  chiefly  to  darkness  and  delusion. 

The  self-prescribed  restriction  was  fully  adhered  to  through- 

*  Vol.  I.  p.  10,  11. 

12  Defence  of 

out  iny  former  volume.  I  kept,  indeed,  considerably  within 
its  promised  limits  ;  for  my  engagement  did  not  restrain  me 
from  citing  evidence  on  the  anti-slavery  side,  in  confirmation 
of  any  facts  which  I  had  previously  shewn  to  have  been  ad- 
mitted by  colonial  opponents  ;*  and  I  might  have  given  to  such 
facts  much  greater  effect,  by  adding  the  language  of  willing, 
to  those  of  reluctant  witnesses  ;  but  this  was  a  right  from  the 
use  of  which,  though  reserved  to  myself,  I  in  general  ab- 

The  desired  effect  on  the  minds  of  my  readers  was,  I  trust, 
not  wholly  lost.  I  know  that  some  of  them,  who  had  doubted 
before  whether  negro  slavery  was  so  very  odious  and  cruel  an 
institution  as  its  opponents  represented  it  to  be,  declared  their 
full  conviction  on  that  subject. — There  was  seen  to  be  in  the 
barbarous  and  iniquitous  laws  by  which  the  state  was  framed 
and  maintained,  enough  for  its  condemnation  ;  and  enough 
also  to  prove  that  its  practical  character,  under  masters  who 
made  and  retained  such  laws,  and  pertinaciously  opposed  their 
repeal,  must  be  extremely  oppressive  and  severe.  It  was  seen 
also,  how  little  credit  was  due  on  such  subjects  to  the  colonial 
authorities,  and  to  their  most  respectable  agents  in  this  coun- 
try ;  since  it  was  shewn  that  they  had  not  scrupled  to  mis- 
represent, in  the  boldest  and  grossest  manner,  before  the  Privy 
Council  and  Parliament,  in  their  defence  of  the  African  trade, 
almost  every  canon,  and  every  principle,  of  their  then  existing 
slave  law. 

My  book,  though  it  certainly  obtained  sufficient  attention 
with  the  colonial  party,  long  remained  unanswered.  It  seemed 
as  if  seeing  themselves  convicted  of  public  misrepresentation 
and  imposture,  as  well  as  of  a  truly  barbarous  spirit  of  legis- 
lation, out  of  their  own  mouths,  and   by  their  own  records. 

*  It  may  be  best  to  transcribe  here  the  words  of  the  engagement  itself. 
"  It  is  on  such  evidence  (the  colonial)  that  I  shall  chiefly  rely;  nor  shall 
"  I  assume  the  truth  of  any  statement  adverse  to  the  colonial  system  that  has 
"  has  ever  been  controverted,  however  unimpeachable  the  testimony  may  be 
"  on  which  it  stands,  until  I  have  shewn  it  to  have  been  directly  or  indirectly 
"  confirmed  by  the  same  decisive  evidence,  the  concessions  of  the  colonists 
"  themselves." — Vol  I.  p.  10,  11. 

The  First  Volume.  13 

they  despaired  of  parrying  the  attack ;  and  thought  silence 
the  best  resort  •  for  nearly  three  years  elapsed  without  any 
reply,  until  the  repeated  remarks  of  anti-slavery  writers,  who 
inferred  that  my  statements  were  tacitly  admitted,  pushed 
their  opponents  into  a  different  and  desperate  course. 

Expedients  of  the  foulest  kind  were  then  adopted  ;  such  as 
attempting  to  discredit  my  statements  by  partial  and  mu- 
tilated extracts  from  them,  calculated  not  only  to  conceal 
their  true  sense,  but  often  to  convey  a  different  or  opposite 
one  ;  and  by  citing  in  a  like  partial  and  fraudulent  way,  the 
public  records  to  which  I  referred,  in  order  to  furnish  out  an 
apparent  refutation. 

Such  practices,  when  a  man's  purse  is  assailed  by  them, 
are  commonly  repelled  by  a  terse  piece  of  controversy  called 
an  indictment;  but  when  not  his  bond,  but  his  book,  is  the 
subject  of  this  crimen  falsi,  though  its  purpose  is  the  execrable 
one  of  cheating  helpless  and  wretched  multitudes  out  of  their 
only  human  hope,  the  compassion  of  the  British  people,  there 
is  no  possible  remedy  that  I  know  of,  except  requesting  that 
those  readers  who  possess  the  book  and  the  answer,  and  have 
access  to  the  documents  referred  to,  will  take  the  trouble  of 
collating  them  with  each  other.* 

*  The  work  chiefly  here  referred  to  is  entitled,  "  A  practical  view  of  the 
"  present  state  of  slavery  in  the  West  Indies,  or  an  Examination  of  Mr. 
"  Stephens'  Slavery  of  the  British  West  India  Colonies.  By  Alexander 
"  Barclay,  lately  and  for  twenty-one  years  resident  in  Jamaica." — Its  readers 
must  have  strong  faith  if  they  believe  the  author's  account  of  his  life  and 
occupations,  and  at  the  same  time  that  the  work  was  his  own.  It  is  cer- 
tainly a  most  erudite  and  able  piece  of  controversy  for  a  Jamaica  overseer ; 
whose  life  had  been  previously  spent  in  the  labours,  not  of  the  pen,  but  the 
whip.  The  colonial  writers  have  derided  justly  enough  the  appellation  of 
"  book-keeper,"  by  which  the  occupation  is  dignified  in  that  island,  though 
both  writing  and  reading  are  foreign  to  its  duties;  but  Mr.  Barclay  may 
raise  it  hereafter,  perhaps,  to  the  higher  title  of  "  book-w«Aer." 

We  are  desired  further  to  believe  that  this  volume,  of  456  pages,  was  com- 
posed by  Mr.  Barclay  for  his  amusement  on  his  passage  from  Jamaica  to 
England;  in  consequence  of  his  having  fortunately  chanced  to  put  on  board 
my  book  among  others  for  his  entertainment  on  the  voyage ;  and  that  the 
greater  part  of  it,  as  given  to  the  public,  was  written   out  before  his  arrival, 

14  Defence  of 

This  indeed  is  a  remedy  of  which,  with  many  or  most  of 
those  who  were  gratuitously  supphed  with  the  pretended  an- 
swer, I  could  not  have  the  benefit ;  because  it  did  not  appear  till 
long  after  my  former  volume  had  ceased  to  be  procurable  by 
purchase.  I  might,  it  is  true,  reprint  here  the  many  inisre- 
presented  passages,  together  with  the  deceptious  extracts 
and  replies  ;  but  this  would  -be  to  rate  too  highly  the  reader's 
patience,  and  impair  his  attention,  perhaps,  to  matters  of 
much  more  importance  than  my  defence  against  such  an  an- 
tagonist. I  will  content  myself,  therefore,  with  exposing  a 
few  of  the  many  instances  of  his  extreme  unfairness,  when  my 
subjects  lead  to  the  notice  of  them ;  leaving  the  reader  to 
judge  by  such  specimens  of  the  rest. 

I  may,  however,  avail  myself  here  of  a  summary  mode  of 
defence  which  some  fellow-labourers  in  this  cause  long  since 
volunteered  on  my  behalf,  against  the  vague  general  charge 
of  inaccuracy,  which  the  work  called  Mr.  Barclay's,  and 
others  that  followed  and  cited  it,  had  made  against  me.  The 
authors  were  challenged  to  maintain  that  charge,  by  pointing- 
out  a  single  instance  that  could  fairly  support  the  impu- 
tation. *  They  were  repeatedly  defied  to  do  so ;  and  at 
the  peril  of  their  o*vn  credit ;  being  told  that  their  declining 
it  would  be  regarded  as  retractation.     Yet  they  have  all  re- 

(see  the  preface).  By  some  happy  coincidence  with  this  preternatural  fa- 
cility of  composition,  he  must  have  found  on  board  a  large  library  of  con- 
troversial works  on  slavery ;  besides  the  other  books  to  which  he  refers. 

Who  can  sufficiently  admire  the  good  fortune  of  the  West  India  Com- 
mittee, in  finding  that  long  desideratum,  a  reply  to  my  Law  of  Slavery, 
thus  fortuitously  and  wonderfully  supplied,  by  a  mere  volunteer;  and  by  one 
who  could  furnish  from  his  own  experience  and  unquestionable  authority, 
the  facts  of  which  they  were  so  much  in  need,  in  order  to  grapple  with  the 
evidence  of  their  own  testimony  and  their  own  records  ! 

But  though  they  have  thus  been  rescued  from  the  expence  and  tlie  diffi- 
culty of  authorship,  they  must  not  escape  from  its  responsibility.  They 
have  so  strongly  accredited,  and  so  widely  circulated  the  work,  that  I  shall 
till  they  disavow  it,  take  leave  to  treat  it  as  their  own. 

*  See  the  Anti-Slavery  Monthly  Reporter  of  November  1826,  No.  18; 
and  that  of  June  1828,  No.  37. 

The  First  Volume.  15 

niained  silent :  with  the  exception  of  one,  who  explained 
away  and  virtually  gave  up  the  charge,  by  resorting  for  the 
impeachment  of  what  I  had  shewn  to  be  the  law,  to  what  he 
had  assumed,  on  Mr.  Barclay's  or  such  like  authority,  to  be 
the  practice.  Palpable  though  this  evasion  is,  it  will  be 
found  to  pervade  nearly  the  whole  of  what  has  been  boasted 
of  as  a  full  answer  to,  and  refutation  of,  my  former  volume. 

As  I  mean  to  adhere,  in  the  continuation  of  my  work,  to 
the  same  plan  of  demonstration  that  I  have  hitherto  pursued, 
it  may  be  proper  to  notice  some  general  objections  that  have 
been  made  to  my  mode  of  conducting  it. 

By  some  of  my  antagonists,  or  one  of  them  at  least,  it  is 
held  unfair  to  cite  against  the  colonial  party,  the  statements 
of  their  known  agents,  witnesses,  and  accredited  partizans, 
unless  I  adopt  the  whole  of  their  testimony,  however  false 
and  inconsistent  (see  Barclay,  p.  3,4.);  which  is,  in  effect,  to 
require  that  I  should  treat  the  evidence  of  my  opponents  as 
if  it  were  my  own ;  and  to  impose  on  me  a  rule  that  would 
make  my  plan  of  demonstration  utterly  hopeless  and  ab- 
surd. He  who  calls  a  witness  must,  1  admit,  take  the  whole 
of  his  testimony  together,  and  either  support  its  consistency 
or  forfeit  its  benefit;  but  in  relying  on  an  antagonist's  evi- 
dence, I  have  a  clear  right  to  use  any  of  the  facts  it  fur- 
nishes, without  admitting  the  rest :  and  even  to  reason  from 
its  inconsistency,  against  its  general  effect. 

This  undeniable  controversial  right  I  certainly  have  used, 
and  shall  continue  to  do  so.  I  shall  prove,  for  instance, 
from  details  furnished  by  my  opponents,  the  shocking  and 
opprobrious  truth,  that  the  slaves  on  sugar  plantations  are 
forced  to  work  from  sixteen  to  eighteen  hours  per  diem ;  re- 
garding the  preposterous  general  statements  by  the  same 
persons,  that  the  labour  of  these  poor  drudges  is  leisure  and 
mere  pastime  when  compared  to  that  of  the  English  pea- 
sants, as  what  I  am  at  liberty  to  pass  unnoticed ;  unless  when 
I  choose  rather  to  cite  them  in  order  to  shew  their  utter 
falsehood  and  effrontery. 

Another  objection  has  been  made  to  my  former  volume 
which  is  contrary  not  only  to  reason  but  to  fact.  I  have  been 
charged  with  quoting,  as  still  in  use,  cruel  and  opprobrious 
ancient  slave  laws,  which  have  become  obsolete ;  and  some 

16  Defence  of' 

that  have  actually  been  repealed,  for  the  sake  of  unfairly  im- 
puting to  the  colonists  of  the  present  aera,  a  harsh  and  bar- 
barous spirit,  that  prevailed  at  a  former  distant  period,  but 
had  long  ceased  to  exist. 

The  charge  is  utterly  groundless.  It  is  true,  indeed,  that 
among  the  laws  which  I  cited  and  digested,  many  were  not 
very  modern  ;  but  their  true  dates  were  not  withheld.  The 
oldest  and  worst  of  them,  in  several  colonies,  had  their  origin 
in  his  late  Majesty's  reign :  nay,  some  of  the  most  revolting 
were  passed  within  the  present  century.  —  That  every  act  of 
assembly  which  I  quoted  of  an  earlier  date  than  1788  re- 
mained then  in  force,  appears  incontestably  from  the  printed 
compilation  of  them  as  existing  laws,  made  in  that  year  by 
a  Committee  of  the  Privy  Council,  in  its  Report  on  the  Slave 
Trade;  from  which,  with  very  few,  if  any,  exceptions,  all  my 
abstracts  of  an  anterior  date  were  taken. 

Nor  did  I  represent  any  of  those  laws  as  unrepealed,  which 
I  had  not  good  reason  for  believing  to  be  so ;  for  the  as- 
semblies have  not  been  slow  to  take  credit  here  for  every 
improvement,  real  or  ostensible,  in  their  slave  codes  ;  and  all 
acts  of  that  description  having  been  from  time  to  time  trans- 
mitted and  laid  before  Parliament,  and  printed,  at  several 
periods  between  1788  and  1823,  when  my  former  volume 
went  to  press,  I  carefully  reviewed  them,  and  left  no  repeal 
or  material  alteration  unnoticed.*  Further  collections  of 
new  slave  acts  in  different  colonies  have  been  since  printed 
by  Parliament;  and  if  a  new  edition  of  my  first  volume 
should  be  called  for,  the  assemblies  shall  have  full  credit  in  it 
for  any  good  enactments  they  have  recently  made  ;  though  I 
have  seen  very  little  indeed  in  them  that  goes  to  redeem  the 
character  of  their  legislation  in  any  degree,  by  more  than 
ostensible  reforms. 

Nor  did  I  omit  to  give  them  credit  for  the  practical  disuse 
of  severe  laws  still  in  force,  when  J  knew  it  to  be  due  to  them, 
though  that  candour  has  been  ill  repaid.f 

*  See  a  note  in  my  preface  to  that  volume,  page  48,  49. 
f  Among  the  many  gross  misrepresentations,  for  instance,  of  their  much 
extolled  champion,  Mr.  Barclay,  I  am  vehemently  arraigned  in  reference  to 

the  Fi/sf  Volume.  17 

Though  it  is  untrue  tliat  I  availed   myself  of  any  repealed 
or  obsolete  law  to  discredit  unflurly  the  existina-  slave  codes, 

my  statement,  tliat  tlie  law  gives  any  property  which  the  slave  may  acquire, 
to  his  master,  though  the  proposition  is  undenied  and  undeniable,  for  what 
is  called  "  a  most  barbarous  attack  on  the  West  India  character."  It  is  as- 
sumed that  in  stating  this,  I  imputed  to  the  masters  in  general  a  cruel  use  of 
that  right;  though  the  insidious  commentator  himself  found  it  for  his  purpose 
afterwards  to  quote,  from  the  immediate  context  in  my  work,  the  following 
paragraph  :  —  "  //  is,  indeed,  alleged  by  the  Colonial  partij,  that  though  the 
"  master  is  legallij  entitled  to  all  the  proper ti/  acquired  bij  the  slave,  he  never 
**  asserts  that  title  ;  and,  with  a  few  exceptions,  I  believe  the  proposition  to  be 
"  true.  The  slave's  little  property  is,  indeed,  sometimes  seized  bi/  way  of 
"  punishment,  or  as  a  mean  of  obtaining  restitution  of  property  suspected  to 
"  have  been  stolen  from  the  master ;  but  upon  purely  sordid  principles,  I  re- 
"  member  only  one  instance  of  such  an  exercise  of  the  owner's  power;  and  in 
"  that  his  conduct  was  generally  condemned."  (See  Barclay's  Practical  \^iew 
of  the  Present  State  of  Slavery  in  the  West  Indies,  p.  47,  48.  See  also, 
and  compare,  my  former  Volume,  p.  60 — 62.) 

The  reader  may  be  curious  to  know  how  my  antagonist  could  possibly 
hope  to  sustain  his  imputation ;  and  yet  avail  himself  of  such  a  context.  The 
honest  stratagem  was  this  : — I  had  shewn  from  an  instance  given  by  one  of 
the  witnesses  of  the  slave-trading  party,  that  in  Africa  the  law  was  so  differ- 
ent, that  the  slaves  often  possess  great  property,  while  the  masters  them- 
selves are  sometimes  poor;  and  that,  nevertheless,  that  property  is  so  fully 
protected  by  the  laws,  that  a  slave  had  been  known  to  offer  to  give  the  price 
of  a  hundred  slaves  for  his  freedom,  which  the  poor  master  fain  would 
have  accepted,  but  was  prevented  by  the  local  law;  because  the  slave  having 
not  been  born  such  in  the  country,  but  purchased,  he  could  not  be  en- 

The  use  I  made  of  it  was  merely  to  shew,  by  an  obvious  inference,  ano- 
ther important  contrast  between  the  British  colonial,  and  the  African  hnv, — 
viz.  that  the  African  master  had  not  the  power  of  corporal  punishment;  be- 
cause if  he  had  possessed  the  power  of  the  West  Indian  master  in  that 
respect,  the  price  might  have  been  easily  extorted  without  the  manumission. 
The  stricture,  therefore,  was  manifestly  on  the  colonial  law,  not  on  the 
practice  :  but  my  opponent,  artfully  separating  the  passage  from  its  con- 
text, exclaims,  "  What  other  impression  does  this  convey,  what  other  is 
"  it  meant  to  convey,  but  diat  the  West  India  planters,  legally  armed 
"  with  the  power  of  the  dungeon,  the  chain,  and  the  whip,  use  them 
"  to  extort  from  their  humble  labourers  the  fruits  of  their  industry  ? 
"  For  what  purpose,"  he  adds,  "  such  a  inonstrous  accusation  was  brought 
"forward,  it  is  impossible  to  conjecture,  as  in  the  very  next  passage 
"  he  acknowledges  it  to  be  without  foundation."  Impossible,  indeed  ! 
that  I  could  mean  to  insinuate  an  accusation  against  the  planters  in  une 

VOL.  II.  C 

1 8  Defence  of  the  First,  mid 

there  was  one  purpose  for  which  I  might  very  justifiably 
have  cited  them  even  if  they  had  been  all  repealed.  The 
unwritten  customary  law  of  slavery,  as  well  as  the  practical 
character  of  the  state,  had  been  grossly  misrepresented  by 
my  opponents ;  and  in  delineating  both,  from  a  collocation 
of  the  facts  which  their  own  evidence  had  furnished,  and 
thereby  falsifying  their  general  statements,  I  had  more  than 
one  powerful  prepossession  to  combat ;  for  it  was  not  easy  to 
believe  of  Englishmen  and  gentlemen,  that  they  had  not  only 
built  up  and  still  defended  an  institution  in  the  colonies,  more 
barbarous  than  any  that  ever  elsewhere  existed  upon  earth  ; 
but  that  they  had  employed  in  its  defence,  before  the  British 
Government  and  Parliament,  the  foul  means  of  direct  and 
wilful  misrepresentation. 

Nor  had  my  opponents  neglected  amply  to  avail  themselves 
of  this  advantage.  They  incessantly  objected,  as  they  still 
do,  to  every  revolting  account  of  their  system,  not  only  the 
favourable  presumptions  due  to  the  natives  of  this  humane 
and  liberal  land,  though  placed  beyond  the  Atlantic;  but 
the  credit  that  belonged  to  many  respectable  witnesses  who 
had  given  very  favourable,  though  most  unfounded,  state- 
ments of  the  slaves'  condition  in  point  of  law,  as  well  as 

It  was  highly  important,  therefore,  to  shew  by  authentic 
records,  what  barbarous  laws,  some  of  the  worst  of  which 
were  of  very  recent  dates,  these  migrated  Englishmen  and 

paragraph,  of  which  I  expressly  and  gratuitously  acquitted  them  in  the 
next,  unless  I  was  insane. 

This,  however,  is  by  no  means  one  of  the  strongest  specimens  which 
might  be  given  of  this  author's  most  disingenuous  commentaries.  They 
are  to  be  found  in  almost  every  page  of  his  work. 

His  ordinary  mode  of  defence  and  refutation,  is  to  oppose  to  what  I  stated 
and  proved  to  be  the  laui,  that  which  he  maintains,  on  his  own  mere  asser- 
tion, to  be  the  practice ;  or,  at  best,  to  adduce  some  idle  and  impotent  qualifi- 
cations by  recent  ostensible  acts  of  assembly,  which  I  had  shewn  to  be 
neither  executed,  nor  meant  for,  nor  capable  of  execution  ;  and  on  such 
premises  to  charge  me  with  having  mis-stated  existing  and  effective  slave 
laws,  to  the  records  of  which  I  had  referred,  or  unwritten  rules,  which  I 
had  proved  to  be  in  general  use,  and  recognized  as  customary  law  m  every 
colonial  court. 

Plan  of  the  Second  Volume.  19 

gentlemen,  when  inured  to  the  government  of  slaves,  had 
been  capable  of  framing ;  but  still  more  so,  as  they  were  for 
the  most  part  undeniably  in  full  force  at  the  very  time  when 
such  favorable  but  false  accounts  were  given  of  their  slave 
codes,  by  the  colonial  agents  and  witnesses,  before  the  Privy 
Council  and  Parliament.  Nor  would  my  citation  of  them  for 
those  purposes  have  been  at  all  unfair,  if  they  had  since  that 
period  been  finally  repealed ;  whereas  the  repealing  acts 
passed  before  I  wrote  were  for  the  most  part  of  limited 
duration.  Moreover,  I  was  able  to  shew,  that  almost  every 
pretended  mitigation  or  improvement  subsequently  made 
by  the  meliorating  acts,  was  illusory,  or  practically  useless ; 
that  the  sole  object  of  those  ostensible  reformations  was 
to  prevent  the  interposition  of  parliament;  and  that  the  for- 
mer spirit  of  legislation,  which  I  could  not  exhibit  without 
citing  those  barbarous  laws,  still,  in  some  of  those  colonies, 
openly  and  avowedly  prevailed.  But  it  is  not  true  that,  even 
under  these  circumstances,  I  cited  knowingly  any  law  that  had 
been  repealed  or  disused  in  practice  when  I  wrote,  without 
apprising  my  readers  of  the  fact. 

The  right  of  quoting  former  evidence,  for  the  sake  of  discredit- 
ing the  ad  verse  party  that  produced  it,  is  one  that  I  certainly  shall 
not  relinquish  in  this  second  part  of  my  work;  for  the  practice 
of  slavery  was  still  more  grossly  misrepresented  at  the  same 
period,  and  by  the  same  witnesses,  than  its  laws  ;  and  the 
exposure  of  their  errors  and  impostures  is  no  unimportant  part 
of  the  duty  I  have  now  to  perform. 

It  would  indeed  be  necessary  to  cite  here  with  some  particu- 
larity the  colonial  evidence  of  that  period,  if  only  for  the  sake  of 
shewing  the  practical  nature  of  the  system  I  have  to  describe 
as  given  by  its  administrators;  for  we  have  since  had  none  but 
ex  parte  examinations  or  statements  from  them;  in  which  they 
have  prudently  confined  themselves,  for  the  most  part,  to  con- 
venient generalities;  avoiding  many  specific  details  into  which 
they  were  formerly  led  ;  and  which  are  essential  to  a  clear  con- 
ception, and  fair  investigation  of  the  case.  Several  changes 
and  improvements  are  alleged  to  have  taken  place  since  the 
parliamentary  evidence  was  given  ;  but  the  truth  or  falsehood 
of  these  allegations  obviously  cannot  be  shewn  without  com- 

c   2 

20  Defence  oJ'tJie  First,  and 

paring  the  former  case,  as  it  stood  on  the  evidence,  with  that 
which  at  present  exists. 

I  shall  for  these  reasons  have  frequently  to  adduce,  under 
the  future  divisions  of  my  subject,  further  citations  from  those 
very  important,  but  now  almost  recondite  volumes,  the  printed 
Reports  of  the  Committees  of  Privy  Council,  and  the  House 
of  Commons,  on  the  slave  trade. 

But  there  is  one  description  of  evidence  contained  in  them, 
the  notice  of  which  seems  most  proper  for  these  preliminary 
remarks.  I  mean  that  of  witnesses,  whom  the  colonial  peti- 
tioners called  to  testify  as  to  the  general  character  of  their 
system,  in  respect  of  humanity,  liberality,  and  mildness :  for 
this  is  a  mode  of  defence  to  which,  however  weak  and  unsa- 
tisfactory when  opposed  to  specific  and  well-established  impu- 
tations, the  colonists  have  always  had  recourse,  with  no 
small  effect  in  this  country  ;  and  my  much-vaunted  anta- 
gonist, the  respondent  of  my  former  volume,  invites,  or  rather 
defies  me,  in  his  preliminary  chapter,  to  reply  to  it.  He 
taxes  me  with  illiberality,  and  want  of  candour,  for  refusing- 
credit  to  the  planters  themselves  even,  when  so  defending 
their  own  body  and  their  own  individual  conduct ;  but  still 
more  for  disregarding  the  testimony  of  such  men  as  were  their 
compurgators  before  parliament;  "  officers  civil,  naval,  and 
"  military,  in  the  service  of  Government,  who  had  visited  the 
"  colonies."  "  Many  of  these,  doubtless,"  says  the  work  as- 
cribed to  Barclay,  "  went  from  the  mother  country  with  strong 
**  prejudices  ;  but  have  they,  on  their  return,  told  this  tale  of 
"  horror?  Have  thei/  said  that  the  slaves  are  ill-treated,  op- 
"  pressed,  or  unhappy  ?  Have  they  not  borne  testimony  to 
'^  the  contrary  ?  And  is  there  any  thing  so  very  captivating 
"  in  the  system  and  management  described  by  Mr.  Stephen, 
"  that  even  a  person  who  has  no  interest,  could  not  see  it  without 
"  being  enamoured  of  it,  adopting  the  prejudices  of  the  colo- 
"  nists,  and  becoming  a  convert  to  their  cause,  against  truth 
"  and  justice."* 

Very  freely  will  I  answer  these  interrogatories ;  and  more 
fully  perhaps,  than  their  propounder  or  his  employers  would 

R;i  relay,  p.  .'>. 

Plan  of  the  Second  Volume.  21 

desire;  and  since  he  relies  so  much  on  the  force  of  such  auxiU- 
aries,  as  to  put  them  in  his  front  line,  for  the  sake  of  prelimi- 
nary effect,  it  is  fit  that  I  should  grapple  with  them  at  the 
onset.  It  is  true,  that  honorable  men  of  the  descriptions  here 
stated,  and  some  of  them  officers  of  very  high  public  charac- 
ter, did  come  forward  as  witnesses  before  Parliament  in  1790, 
at  the  instance  of  the  planters,  to  support  their  petitions  against 
the  abolition  of  the  slave  trade ;  and  that  their  testimony,  as 
to  the  then  condition  and  treatment  of  the  slaves,  was  not  less 
favourable  than  that  of  the  planters  themselves.  I  will  here 
accommodate  my  catechist  with  a  few  extracts  quite  for 
his  purpose. 

Admiral  Lord  Shuldham, 

Q.  "  What  has  your  lordship  observed  of  the  behaviour  of 
*'  masters  towards  their  negro  slaves,  in  those  islands  where 
**  you  have  commanded." 

A.  "  It  has  been  mild,  gentle,  and  indulgent  in  all  re&pects ; 
"  equal  to  ivhat  masters  generally/  shew  torvards  their  servants  in 
"  this  kingdom"  * 

Admiral  Sir  Peter  Parker. 

Q,  "  What  did  you  observe  of  the  behaviour  and  treat- 
"  ment  of  masters  towards  their  slaves  in  the  several  islands 
"  where  you  have  been  ?" 

A.  "  From  the  best  observations  I  could  make,  their  treat- 
"  ment  was  lenient  and  humane.  I  never  heard  oj'  even  one  in- 
**  stance  of  severitu  toivards  a  slave  during  the  xvhole  time  I  was 
'*  on  the  Jamaica  station."  (This  he  stated  to  have  been  more 
than  four  years.) 

Q.  "  Did  the  slaves  in  general  appear  to  be  properly  fed 
*'  and  clothed  and  lodged  ?" 

A.  "  The^  not  only  appeared  to  me  to  be  properly  fed,  clothed 
"  and  lodged,  but  were,  in  my  opinion,  in  a  ?nore  comfortable  situ- 
**  ation  than  the  loiver  class  of  people  in  any  part  of  Europe  ; 
*'  Great  Britain  not  excepted." 

Commons  Report  on  the  Slave  Trade  of  1790,  p.  404. 

22  Defence  of  the  First,  and 

Q.  "  Did  it  appear  to   you  that  more  labour  was  required 
"  of  the  negroes  than  they  could  properly  bear  ?" 
"A.  *'  Bi/  no  means."* 

Sir  Archibald  Campbell,  Knight  of  the  Bath. 

Q.  "  What  have  you  observed  with  respect  to  the  conduct 
"  of  masters  towards  their  negroes  in  Jamaica?" 

A.  ''It  appeared  that  it  was  marked  by  great  kindness  and 
"  humanitij." 

Q.  "  Did  it  appear  to  you  that  their  treatment  was  mild 
"  and  humane?" 

A.  "  It  did." 

Q.  "  Did  they  appear  to  be  properly  fed,  clothed  and 
"  lodged." 

A.  "They  did."  t 

Lord  Rodney,  Admiral  Gardner,  Sir  J.  Dalling. 
and  other  Officers  gave  accounts  hardly,  if  at  all,  less  favour- 
able of  the  general  system. 

Admiral  Barrington,  being  asked,  "  What  have  you 
*'  observed  of  the  behaviour  of  masters  towards  their  ne2;ro 
'*  slaves  in  those  islands  where  you  have  commanded  ?" 
answered,  "  Always  the  greatest  humanitij ;"  and  afterwards 
added,  "  they  seemed  so  happy  that  he  had  wished  himself'  a 
"  negro.^'% 

I  will  add  extracts  from  the  evidence  of  only  two  of  the 
planters,  who  were  examined  at  the  same  period  ;  and  among 
scores  of  eminent  ones  who  spoke  strongly  to  the  same  laudatory 
effect,  will  select  gentlemen  of  that  description  who  had  filled 
high  official  situations  in  the  colonies ;  and  had  much  per- 
sonal acquaintance  with  the  practice  they  described,  on  their 
own  estates. 

Sir  Ralph  Payne,  afterwards  Lord  Lavington,  twice 
Governor  of  the  Leeward  Islands,  and  proprietor  of  se- 
veral estates  in  Antigua  and  St.  Christopher. 
*'  /  trust  I  do  not  hazard  a  contradiction  tvhen   J  say  that 

"  there  is  no  slave,  at  least  none  that  I  ever  saw,  the  severity  of 

*  Commons  Report  on  the  Slave  Trade  of  1790,  p.  477. 
i  Ibid.  451.  I   Ibid.  405. 

Plan  of  ihe  Second  Volume.  23 

"  whose  labour  is  by  auy  means  comparable  to  that  of  a  day  la- 
*'  bourer  in  England.'^ 

Q.  "  Did  the  slaves  in  general  appear  to  be  properly  fed, 
**  clothed  and  lodijed  ?" 

A.  "  Most  uiujuestionably  they  did.''* 

David  Paury,  Esq.,  for  seven  years  Governor  of  Barbadoes, 
and  Proprietor  of  estates  in  that  Island. 

Q.  "  What  have  you  observed  of  the  behaviour  of  masters 
"  towards  their  slaves?" 

A.  "  Every  possible  kindness,  care  and  attention.'' 

Q.  "  Is  not  their  treatment  remarkably  gentle  and  hu- 
"  mane?" 

A.  "  Certainly,  so." 

Q.  "  Did  it  appear  to  you  that  more  labour  was  required 
"  of  them  than  they  could  properly  bear  ?" 

A.  "  Not  nearly  so  much  as  I  think  their  owners  had  a  right 
"  to  demand ;  and  the  common  labour  of  the  negro  there  would 
"  be  play  to  any  peasant  in  this  country. "f 

How  satisfactory,  how  truly  honorable  to  the  planters  of  the 
Sugar  Colonies,  was  such  evidence !  No  wonder  that  it 
deeply  impressed  the  British  Parliament,  and  contributed 
mainly  to  the  protection  of  the  slave  trade  against  the  efforts 
of  J'anaiics  and  enthusiasts,  adding  thereby  seventeen  years  of 
protracted  life,  and  enormous  extension  to  that  beneficent 
traffic  ;  for  be  it  observed  that  these  testimonies  refer  to  times 
when  the  trade  was  in  full  vigour ;  and  though  no  small  part 
of  the  negroes  whose  situation  and  treatment  are  here  de- 
picted, must  have  been  recently  imported  Africans,  now  called 
by  the  colonial  writers  ''  savages,"  and,  "  rude  barbarians,"  and 
therefore, we  are  told,  unavoidably  subjected  to  a  rigorous  dis- 
cipline ;  for  no  distinction  was  made  by  these  well-informed 
observers,  between  their  condition,  and  that  of  the  Creole 
slaves.  All  were  treated  with  equal  tenderness,  and  all  equally 
content  and  happy,  if  these  accounts  were  true. 

What  a  pity  is  it   that  the  planters  were  ever  bereft  of  a 

*  Commons  Report  on  tlie  Slave  Trade  of  1790,  p.  435. 
+  Ibid.  464. 

24  Dejeme  of  ihe  First,  ami 

trade  that  produced  such  benignant  effects ;  converting  by 
millions  the  barbarous  and  hapless  natives  of  Africa  into  the 
enviable  condition  here  described,  and  furnishing  their  mas- 
ters with  an  endless  succession  of  new  objects  for  the  exer- 
cise of  their  benevolence,  liberality,  and  self-denial!  The 
only  drawback  on  the  happy  consequences  was,  that  the  lives 
of  those  fortunate  beings,  the  new  negroes  especially,  though 
merry,  were  found  to  be  short :  but  this,  no  doubt,  was  the 
effect  of  that  excess  of  kindness  and  indulgence  which  pam- 
pered them  too  much,  and  added  indolence  to  repletion. 
The  speedy  loss  of  twenty-five  by  the  lowest,  and  fifty  by 
other  estimates,  in  every  hundred,  by  their  "  seasoning"  into 
ease  and  luxury,  might  detract,  indeed,  from  the  priidei/ce  of 
their  planting  benefactors  ;  but  added  to  the  praise  of  that 
unexampled  benignity,  which  made  slavery,  instead  of  its 
proverbial  wretchedness  in  other  countries,  a  state  to  be  envied 
not  only  by  our  free  peasants,  but  by  a  British  admiral ! 

Having  thus  taken  up  the  gauntlet  thrown  down  by  Mr. 
Barclay,  and  fairly  given  to  the  planters  the  full  benefit  of 
that  disinterested  and  honorable  testimony,  which  he  chal- 
lenged me  to  answer;  I  must  now  take  leave  to  place  under  the 
eyes  of  my  readers  some  accounts  much  more  recent,  and  of 
rather  a  different  kind. 

**  Prior  to  the  abolition  of  the  slave  trade,  no  planter  of  any 
"  candour  could  deny  that  the  evils  of  the  system  icere  great. 
"  No  sooner,  however,  had  this  measure  been  accomplished,  than 
"  the  ivhole  mode  of  treatment  changed,"  &c.  "  Immediately 
"  subsequent  to  the  years  1807  and  1808,  care  and  attention  on 
"  the  part  of  the  master  commenced.'"  * 

How,  Mr.  M'Donnell !  !  !  commenced  after  1807  !  Strange 
anachronism  !  Why,  seventeen  years  before  that  period,  they 
had  attained  the  ne  plus  ultra  of  maturity  and  perfection  — 
"  The  whole  mode  of  treatment  since  changed" !  It  has  been  a 
sad  revolution,  then,  for  the  poor  slaves  ;  since  we  are  assured 
on  such  high  authority  as  it  would  be  "  ilhberal  and  uncan- 
did  to  doubt,"  that  they  were  before  treated  with  "  every  possible 

*  Considerations  on  Negro  Slavery,  &c.,  by  Alexander  INl'Donnell,  Esq., 
Sterotary  to  tlie  Committee  of  the  Inhabitants  of  Denierara,  p.  200. 

Phin  of  the  Second  Volume.  25 

kindness,  care,  and  attention.'^  The  change  could  be  only 
for  the  worse  ;  and  an  entire  change  must  have  been  the 
entire  substitution  of  neglect,  harshness,  and  severity,  for  con- 
summate "  care,  humanity,  and  kindness." 

Who,  it  may  be  asked,  is  the  writer  that  thus  oversets 
the  whole  case  so  well  got  up  by  the  West  India  Committee, 
and  so  well  attested  before  Parliament,  in  1790  ?  Who  is 
the  bold  man  that  thus  ventures  to  give  the  lie  to  all  that  a 
hundred  respectable  planters  then  alleged,  and  all  that  their 
honorable  witnesses  confirmed  ;  telling  us  that  "  no  planter  of 
any  candour  could  deny''  what  they  all  stoutly  did  deny ;  nay, 
called  other  men  liars  for  asserting?  It  is  no  other  than  one 
of  the  best  accredited  colonial  champions  of  the  present  day. 
It  is  Mr.  M'DoNNELL,  the  secretary  to  the  general  committee 
of  all  the  inhabitants  of  Demerara,  constituted  for  the  pur- 
pose of  opposing  the  reformation  of  slavery  proposed  in  1823 
by  His  Majesty's  government !  I  cite  the  passage  from  a 
work  written  and  published  by  him  as  their  official  organ ; 
and  which  has  been  very  extensively  and  gratuitously  circu- 
lated in  this  country  by  that  fourth  estate  of  this  realm,  the 
West  India  Committee,  or  its  members.  Nor  is  it  by  this  single 
passage  only,  that  he  thus  renounces  and  repudiates  their 
former  case.  I  have  extracted  it,  among  many  others  in  that 
work  to  the  same  effect,  only  as  one  of  the  most  compendious. 
It  is  in  truth  the  main  drift  of  his  arguments,  to  persuade 
the  people  of  this  country  that  the  cessation  of  the  slave  trade 
has  given  birth  to,  and  will  progressively  mature,  without  their 
further  interference,  the  mitigation  and  cessation  of  slavery. 
He  affects  systematically  to  distinguish  various  different  stages 
in  the  process,  to  the  first  of  which  he  alleges  the  state  has 
already  arrived  ;  and  admits  that  up  to  the  abolition  in  1807, 
slavery  existed  in  its  worst  degree  of  severity.  * 

Many  other  are  the  colonial  authorities  that  have  contradicted 
not  less  directly  the  evidence  of  1790.  Dr.ColHns'willbeshewn 
to  have  done  so  in  every  particular,  as  well  as  in  its  general  effect. 
But  I  will  cite  here  only  one  testimony  more ;  and  it  shall  be 
that  of  the  very  antagonist  who  has  been  hardy  enough  to  defy 
me  to  this  review  ;  even  Mr.  Barclay  himself! 

*  Seep.  204.  to  227. 

26  Defence  of  the  Firat,  and 

He,  like  Mr.  M'Donnell,  plainly  admits  that  at  the  time 
when  the  respectable  witnesses  here  quoted,  represented  the 
condition  of  the  slaves  as  being  so  happy  and  enviable,  and 
for  seventeen  years  later,  the  work  of  mitigating  its  extreme 
rigour  had  not  even  begun  ;  and  ascribes  the  origin  and  pre- 
tended progress  of  it  to  the  cessation  of  the  African  trade. 
"  T/teJirst  stage  of  improvement  is  by  far  the  most  difficult  to  a 
"  rude  and  barbarous  people ;  but  the  progress  that  the  negroes 
"  have  already  made  is  far  from  inconsiderable.  No  person  who 
"  saw  the  situation  of  the  slaves  in  Jamaica  tiventi/  years  ago 
"  (i.  e.  fourteen  years  after  the  evidence  of  1790)  could  have 
"  believed  it  possible  that  so  great  a  change  for  the  better  could 
*'  have  taken  place  in  so  short  a  period."* 

Certainly  not,  if  the  testimony  I  have  cited  was  true  ;  for 
no  such  change  was  possible. 

He  proceeds  to  specify  the  improvements  which  he  alleges  to 
have  taken  place ;  contrasting  them  in  parallel  tables  with 
what  he  admits  to  have  been  the  former  case.  I  will  not  follow 
him  fully  into  his  particulars  here  ;  because  several  of  them  re- 
late to  parts  of  the  system  not  within  the  scope  of  my  present 
work,  and  any  which  may  fall  within  it,  will  be  noticed  in  the 
proper  places  hereafter.  But  I  will  extract  two  or  three  of 
them,  as  fair  samples  of  the  whole. 

"  When  savage  Africans  were  pour-  ",  It  is  now  limited  to  39  stripes, 
"  ing  into  Jamaica,  &c.,  the  master's  "  to  be  inflicted  by  order  and  in 
"  power  of  punishing  his  slaves  was  "  presence  of  the  master  or  over- 
"  little  restrained  bylaw;  and  was  "  seer,  and  10  by  subordinate 
*'  exercised  to  a  great  extent  by  the  "  agents :  and,  comparatively  speak- 
"  subordinate  white  people  and  "  ing,  is  but  seldom  required  at  all. 
"  drivers.  "  There  is  not  now  one  punishment 

"  for  twenty  that  were  inflicted  fif. 

"  teen  or  twenty  years  ago. 
"  Ten  years  ago  chains  were  in         "  Tliey  are  now  entirely  abolished. 
"  common  use  on  the  plantations,  for 
"  punishing  criminal  slaves. 

"  For  cruel  and  improper  punish-  "  Now  they  are  manumised,  and 
"  ment,  slaves  had  formerly  no  ade-  "  provided  with  an  annuity  for  life  ; 
"  quate  redress.  "  and    magistrates  are  appointed   a 

"  council  of  protection,  to  attend  to 

"  their  complaints. 

*  Barclay's  Present  State  of  Slavery,  &c.,  Introduction,  p.  21. 

Plan  of  the  Second  Volume.  27 

"  Twenty   years    ago,    there   was         "  Now  they   are   nearly  all   bap- 
scarcely  a  negro  baptised   in  Ja-     "  tised." 


I  will  not  suppose  any  of  my  readers  so  totally  ignorant  of 
the  public  discussions  on  the  subjects  of  punishments  and  re- 
ligious instruction,  as  to  stand  in  need  of  being  informed  or 
satisfied  that  the  improvements  here  alleged,  are  all  either 
frivolous  or  wholly  unfounded  in  fact.  I  might  otherwise  refer 
to  my  former  volume  under  the  proper  titles,  for  expositions  of 
their  nullity  or  absolute  falsehood  ;  and  appeal  for  my  confir- 
mation to  volumes  of  official  documents  now  before  the  public 
in  Parliamentary  papers. 

The  other  improvements  alleged  by  him  are  of  a  like  decep- 
tious  character.  But  while  I  protest  against  all  Mr.  Barclay's 
propositions  in  his  second  column,  I  thank  him  for  his  admis- 
sion in  the  first.  They  confirm  me  in  many  statements  in  my 
former  works,  the  truth  of  which  has  been  loudly  denied  ;  while 
they  shew  in  almost  every  particular,  how  grossly  deceived  the 
respectable  witnesses  of  1790  were  in  their  eulogies  of  negro 

In  saying  they  were  "  deceived^'  as  far  at  least  as  relates  to 
the  naval  and  military  officers,  I  desire  to  be  understood  se- 
riously and  literally;  beijpg  far  from  supposing  that  they  did 
not  sincerely  entertain  the  very  erroneous  opinions  they  gave. 
Nor  is  it  hard  to  explain  how  officers,  or  other  strangers,  may 
visit  the  West  Indies,  or  even  stay  there  a  considerable  time, 
and  return  with  impressions  as  to  the  general  treatment  of 
slaves,  widely  remote  from  the  truth. 

From  Mr.  Barclay's  suggestion,  that  such  men  doubtless 
go  from  this  country  with  strong  prejudices  adverse  to  the  co- 
lonists, I  must  wholly  dissent.  The  very  contrary  I  know  from 
much  observation  to  be  the  truth.  The  fact  is,  that  naval  and 
military  officers,  usually  carry  to  the  West  Indies  a  preposses- 
sion of  which  their  hospitable  entertainers,  the  slave  masters 
there,  do  not  fail  to  avail  themselves,  and  which  greatly  fa- 
vors the  universal  policy  of  all  the  proprietors  they  associate 
with  ;  that  of  keeping  from  the  eyes  of  respectable  strangers 
the  more  offensive  parts  of  the  system,  and  studiously  contriv- 
ing to  bring  within  their  notice,  whatever  may  seem  to  make  for 

28  Defence  of  the  First  and 

its  credit.  This  prepossession,  is  a  notion  that  the  planters  suf- 
ferinpubhc  opinion  unjustly, /"///oMgA  the  popular  odium  attached 
to  the  use  of  the  whip,  which  their  own  professional  experience 
has  taught  them  to  be  necessary  for  maintaining  subordination 
and  discipline;  or  which  at  least  they  believe  to  be  so.  Some 
of  themselves,  perhaps,  have  incurred  unmerited  censure  on 
that  score ;  and  may  consequently  be  the  more  ready  to  sym- 
pathise with  those  whom  they  are  taught  to  regard  as  victims 
of  the  same  popular  prejudice. 

Reflection,  indeed,  might  suggest  to  them  the  essential  and 
fearful  difference  between  a  power  of  corporal  punishment  in- 
trusted for  public  purposes,  to  honorable  men,  who  have  no  self- 
interest,  real  or  imaginary  in  abusing  it;  and  the  same,  or  a 
far  wider  discretional  power,  placed  in  the  hands  of  vulgar  and 
sordid  men,  unrestrained  by  any  sense  of  honorary  or  legal 
responsibility,  and  whose  gains  depend  on  the  strict  per- 
formance of  laborious  services  which  the  whip  is  employed  to 
enforce.  If  it  were  the  duty  of  soldiers  or  seamen  to  work 
hard  for  the  private  benefit  of  their  officers,  and  the  power  of 
corporal  punishment  without  a  court  martial,  were  given  to  the 
latter  for  enforcing  that  duty,  the  two  cases  would  be  less 
widely  different ;  but  to  give  them  a  further  approximation, 
the  boatswains,  and  Serjeants  and  every  other  petty  officer, 
must  be  armed  with  the  same  authority,  and  have  an  interest 
also  in  its  use.  We  must  also  divest  the  superior  officers  of 
their  elevated  professional  feelings;  and  suppose  that  the  sole 
object  of  their  occupation  is  gain. 

Nevertheless,  the  prepossession  here  noticed,  is  not  always 
or  generally  corrected  by  such  reflections.  It  would  effectually 
be  so,  if  the  interior  discipline  of  a  plantation  were  exposed 
to  the  view  of  such  guests  as  these ;  but  they  see  as  little  of 
it  in  the  houses  of  their  pubhc  or  private  entertainers,  as  a 
respected  visitor  in  this  country  does  of  the  family  discipline, 
and  ordinary  economies,  of  his  host;  or  the  treatment  of  paupers 
in  a  neighbouring  workhouse.  The  only  slaves  brought  within 
their  notice,  are  domestics  in  their  holiday  dresses;  and  if  faults 
are  committed  by  these,  the  punishment  of  them  is  of  course 
postponed  till  their  departure.  As  to  the  field  negroes,  they 
may  be  seen  perhaps  at  their  work  in  the  cane  pieces  by  the 
passing  stranger;  but  the  drivers  are  loo  well  instructed  to  use 

Plan  of  the  Second  Volume.  29 

their  whips  in  his  presence.  Still  less  can  he  learn,  without  a 
prying  curiosity  that  would  be  highly  offensive,  the  excessiv(; 
times  of  their  daily  and  nocturnal  labour,  and  the  scanty 
amount  of  their  weekly  allowances  of  food,  the  articles  of 
oppression  in  which  I  shall  shew  that  their  worst  ill-treatment 

If  these  difficulties  of  observation  are  doubted,  I  beg  leave 
to  refer  to  the  following  extract  from  a  work  lately  published. 
It  comes  from  an  apologist  of  the  system;  otherwise  of  course 
I  should  not  use  it.  He  is  also  one  of  those  writers  whose  style 
has  been  the  most  useful  to  the  bad  cause  they  support, 
and  the  most  mischievous  to  that  of  the  unheard  and  un- 
fortunate slaves  ;  for  he  affects,  in  a  very  specious  strain,  mo- 
deration and  a  mediating  spirit ;  admitting  in  a  small  degree, 
and  with  laboured  palliations,  abuses  too  notorious  to  be 
denied;  and  chidingthose  who  call  oppression  and  inhumanity 
by  their  proper  names,  or  exhibit  them  in  their  true  dimen- 
sions, as  intemperate  partizans.*  He  is,  like  all  such  writers, 
a  professed  friend  to  humane  improvements,  but  would  post- 
pone ad  Gracas  Kakndas,  the  emancipation  of  the  slaves,  f 
t  must  nevertheless  do  him  the  justice  to  say  that  he  writes 
with  ability;  and  fairly  enough  acknowledges  some  truths  that 
his  fellow-labourers  have  boldly  denied. 

Speaking  of  a  gentleman  who  was  making  a  tour  through 
the  Leeward  Islands  to  obtain  information  on  these  subjects, 
he  has  the  following  passage. 

"  An  individual  must  possess  a  greater  share  of  discern- 
"  ment  than  falls  to  the  lot  of  most  observers,  in  order  to  put 
"  it  out  of  the  power  of  an  interested  guide  to  deceive  him, 
"  unless  his  opportunities  for  observation  are  constant,  and 
**  unrestrained  by  ceremony.  The  true  condition  of  the  slaves, 
"  upon  an  estate  which  might  be  governed  with  the  grossest 
"  abuses  of  humanity,  would  not  be  made  apparent  to  the 
**  casual  visitor,  if  it  were  contrary  to  the  wishes  of  his  con- 

*  Observations  upon  the  State  of  Slavery  in  the  Island  of  Santa  Cruz. 
&c. ;  published  by  Simpkin  and  Marshall,  1829.  See  especially  his 
strictures  on  the  Edinburgh  Review,  &c.  70,  71. 

t  Ibid.  86. 

30  Defence  of  the  First,  and 

"  ductor  or  host.  Means  could  be  easily  resorted  to,  which 
"  would  compel  even  misery  to  cast  aside  its  semblance,  and 
"  to  wear  the  temporary  guise  of  content.  It  may  probably 
"  be  attributed  to  the  difference  between  visits  of  social  fes- 
"  tivity,  and  those  of  a  settled  and  ordinary  reception  en 
"  famille,  that  evidence  so  much  at  variance  with  the  facts, 
"  and  yet  tendered  with  a  perfect  conviction  of  its  truth, 
"  should  have  been  given  by  many  individuals  of  high  rank 
**  during  the  discussions  which  preceded  and  led  to  the  abo- 
"  lition  of  the  slave  trade.  '  We  do  not  wash  our  linen  before 
"  strangers,'  was  the  coarse  but  pithy  observation  of  one 
"  whose  knowledge  of  human  nature  was  both  extensive  and 
"  varied  :  nor  is  it  reasonable  to  suppose  that  planters  feel  de- 
"  sirous  that  their  visitors  should  see  slavery  in  its  worst 
"  colours;  or  witness  the  painful  exhibitions  which  are  seldom 
"  entirely  dispensed  with  upon  the  best  governed  plantations."* 

I  heartily  wish  that  these  remarks,  the  obvious  truth  of 
which  might  recommend  them,  even  had  they  been  made  by 
an  anti-slavery  pen,  were  transcribed,  and  delivered  with  his 
commission  or  instructions,  to  every  governor  or  other  public 
officer  sent  to  the  West  Indies,  who  happens  fortunately  to  be, 
what  they  all  ought  to  be,  unattached  by  property  or  connec- 
tions to  the  cause  of  the  planters ;  and  that  they  were  enjoined 
to  make  no  official  reports  as  to  the  general  condition  and 
treatment  of  slaves,  until  they  had  lived  at  least  a  year  in  that 
country,  after  the  long  round  of  festive  entertainments  which 
always  follow  their  first  arrival. 

Even  those  sacred  office-bearers,  who  are  now  sent  to  the 
sugar  colonies,  may  stand  in  great  need  of  such  cautions. 
They  might,  in  one  instance,  have  prevented  a  Right  Re- 
verend Prelate  from  committing  himself  inextricably  as  an 
apologist  of  slavery,  almost  as  soon  as  he  had  touched  the 
shore  of  Jamaica;  and  shutting  out  most  effectually  from  his 
own  ears,  truths  which  others  took  good  care  to  keep  from  his 
eyes,  by  at  once  engaging  as  his  private  chaplain,  the  most 
active  and  violent  public  champion  of  slavery  that  the  island 

*  Observations  upon  the  State  of  Slavery  in  the   Island  of  Santa  Cruz, 
Sec,  p.  5. 

Plan  of  the  Second  Volume.  31 

Another  Right  Reverend  Prelate,  for  whom  I  feel  very  high 
respect,  might  also  have  escaped  the  premature  formation  and 
avowal  of  views,  which  I  am  persuaded  he  has  already  in 
great  measure  corrected,*  and  will,  if  his  valuable  life  is 
spared,  ere  long  find  cause  to  reverse.  If  so,  his  brief  error 
will  probably  redound  to  his  own  honor,  and  the  benefit  of 
the  oppressed  multitudes  committed  to  his  spiritual  charge ; 
for  I  know  his  character  too  well  to  doubt  that  when  fully  de- 
livered from  those  delusions  which  the  concurrent  assertions, 
and  systematic  artifices,  of  all  who  were  admitted  to  his  society 
unavoidably  impressed  upon  his  mind,  he  will  frankly  ac- 
knowledge and  disclaim  them.  He  will  not  be  less  candid 
and  manly  in  this  respect  than  that  gallant  officer.  Governor 
Arthur;  who,  though  when  he  first  visited  the  West  Indies  he 
was  a  warm  friend  to  the  anti-slavery  cause,  or,  to  quote  his 
own  term,  "  a  perfect  Wilberforce,"  became,  soon  after  his 
arrival,  so  complete  a  victim  to  the  ordinary  arts  of  the  slave 
masters  on  the  spot,  that  he  hastened  expressly  to  retract  his 
first  opinions,  and  bore  spontaneous  testimony,  in  his  official 
dispatches,  to  the  exemplary  general  humanity  that  prevailed 
in  the  colony  over  which  he  had  come  to  preside. 

Soon,  however,  did  experience  teach  him  how  grossly  he 
had  been  imposed  on.  He  found  that  practices  existed  exten- 
sively under  his  own  immediate  government,  more  cruel  and 
atrocious  than  any  that  his  original  views  had  ascribed  to  co- 
lonial slave-masters ;  and  that  the  general  spirit  of  the  com- 
munity made  it  impossible  to  suppress  them.  A  second  con- 
fession of  error  was  of  course  mortifying  enough  ;  but  he  did 
not  hesitate  to  make  it,  and  freely  to  retract,  in  a  letter  to  the 
Colonial  Minister,  his  former  retractation. f 

Though  I  have  been  led  thus  largely  to  explain,  injustice 
to  the  eminent  naval  and  military  officers  whose  errors  my  an- 
tagonist has   compelled  me  to  expose,   the  sources  of  their 

*  My  chief  reason  for  so  thinking  is,  that  his  lordship  has  now  the 
honour  of  being  abused  in  that  ordinary  gazette  of  the  slave-masters  —  the 
Morning  Journal ;  and  other  publications  known  to  be  in  their  employ- 
ment and  pay. 

t  The  correspondence  is  in  the  official  papers  printed  by  orders  of  6th 
June  18ir,  p.  115.,  and  16th  June  1823. 

32  Defence  of  the  First,  and 

deceptions  testimony;  and  thongh  I  sincerely  regard  the  blame 
of  it  as  imputable  not  to  themselves,  but  to  the  well-informed 
petitioners  who  called  them ;  let  it  be  remembered  that  I  have 
been  reasoning  not  to  repel  their  evidence,  but  to  excuse  it ; 
for  we  have  seen  that  it  has  been  wholly  overthrown,  however 
inconsistently  and  ungratefully,  by  the  same  party  at  whose 
instance  it  was  given.  If  I  have  failed  to  shew,  that  the 
misrepresentations  of  those  highly  respectable  witnesses  may 
have  been  sincere,  so  much  the  worse  was  the  conduct  of 
those  who  knowing;;  the  true  case,  brought  them  forward  to 
disguise  it. 

Here  some  of  my  readers  may  perhaps  be  disposed  to  ask,*'  Do 
"  you  then  deny  the  last  representations,  as  well  as  the  first;  con- 
"  tending,  that  no  general  improvements  have  actually  taken 
"  place  during  the  last  twenty  years  ?  and  if  so,  how  do  you 
"  account  for  these  public  assertions  that  the  colonists  have 
"  recently  made  with  apparentcandour,  because  at  the  grievous 
"  expense  of  their  own  credit,  and  that  of  their  predecessors 
"  and  co-partizans,  in  respect  of  their  former  evidence  ?" 

T  will  answer  the  last  question  first.  The  case  is  by  no 
means  new.  It  is  but  the  last  iteration  of  pretences,  that  have 
been  set  up  as  speciously,  and  supported  by  equal  authority  ; 
and  yet  afterwards  refuted  and  abandoned,  at  every  succes- 
sive stage  of  a  controversy,  that  has  now  subsisted  forty 

Indeed  this  is  short  of  the  truth  ;  for  even  in  the  Parlia- 
mentary investigations  of  1790,  there  was  the  same  affectation 
of  candour,  in  the  retrospective  condemnation  of  former  prac- 
tices, with  which  the  credulity  of  the  British  public  has  been 
often  since,  and  is  now  again  abused.  Many  of  the  colo- 
nial witnesses  then  admitted,  that  the  slavery  of  a  former 
period,  had  been  rigorous  and  cruel;  and  took  credit  for  the 
very  lenient  and  satisfactory  state  at  which  they  represented 
it  to  have  arrived,  as  the  effect  of  improvements  within  the 
time  of  their  own  recollection.  In  this  part  of  their  case  also, 
the  planters  were  supported  by  some  of  their  naval  and  military 

Question  to  Commodore  Gardner.  "  Do  you  think  the 
"  slaves  are  better  or  worse  treated  now  than  they  were  for- 
"  merly?" 

Plan  oj'  the  Second  Volume.  33 

A.  "  I  am  confident  when  I  say  they  are  much  better 
"  treated  now,  than  they  were  when  I  first  knew  that  island 
"  (Jamaica).''  * 

In  answer  to  the  same  question,  ViceAdmiral  Arbuth- 
NOT  said,  "  Beyond  compurison  better:  in  Jamaica,  much  im- 
"  proved  since  I  first  knew  it,  which  was  as  long  ago  as  in  the 

"year  1763."  t 

Here  we  find  the  era  of  improvements  carried  back  to  a 
period  now  no  less  than  sixty-six  years  distant.  They,  must  to 
be  sure,  have  had  a  very  slow  growth ;  since  the  colonists  now 
admit  by  the  pen  of  Mr.  M'Donnell,  that  they  have  not  yet 
advanced  beyond  their  first  stage  ;  but  they  certainly  lessen 
the  wonder  by  dating  the  commencement  of  the  progress,  at 
least  seventeen  years  later,  than  when  these  gallant  officers 
and  many  other  witnesses  were  called  by  the  West  India  peti- 
tioners to  prove  its  consummation. 

Reasonably  did  the  planters  exult  over  the  abolitionists  in 
the  effect  of  this  plausible,  but  now  repudiated  testimony.  It 
not  only  gave  a  long  respite  to  their  beloved  slave  trade;  but 
gave  colour  to  their  long  continued  boast,  that  the  humanity 
of  their  system  had  been  vindicated  from  the  charges  of  their 
opponents^  But  it  was  because  their  cause  was  tried  before 
assemblies,  to  all  the  unbiassed  part  of  whom,  the  whole  sub- 
ject was  new,  and  of  difficult  investigation;  and  who  therefore, 
instead  of  well  weighing  the  evidence  as  to  the  details  of  con- 
troverted facts,  probably  took  the  easier  part  of  judging,  as 
jurymen  are  prone  to  do,  by  the  respectable  and  imposing  tes- 
timony adduced  as  to  general  character. 

The  slave  trade,  however,  was  soon  found  to  stand  in  need 
of  further  support ;  and  a  stronger  or  fresher  colonial  case 

*  Commons  Report  of  1790,  p.  A')2.  f  Ibid.  410. 

\  See  a  Report  of  the  Jamaica  House  of  Assembly  of  November  23,  1804, 
which  was  laid  before  Parliament,  and  printed  by  order  of  the  House  oi' 
Commons  of  February  25,  1805,  p.  12.  "  The  particular  accusations  of 
"  oppression  without  the  means  of  redress,  of  avaricious  and  unfeeling  rigour 
"  exercised  towards  bur  slaves,  &c.,  heaped  upon  the  inhabitants  of  th<?  Bri- 
"  tish  West  India  Colonies,  have  hcni  vf pilled  and rLJutcdln/mcti irrefragable 
"  evidence,  that  they  can  now  make  little  impression,  except  on  the  pre- 
"  judiced  and  uninformed." 

VOL,   II.  D 

34  Defence  of  the  First,  and 

was  called  for  to  maintain  it,  not  by  the  enemies  of  slavery, 
but  its  friends. 

The  West  India  committee  of  proprietors  and  merchants 
in  this  country,  constituted  for  the  purpose  of  upholding 
that  iniquitous  commerce  (to  which  we  are  now  modestly 
told  the  colonies  had  been  long  averse),  suggested  the  ab- 
solute necessity  of  parrying  the  further  attacks  upon  it  by 
Mr.  Wilberforce  and  his  party  in  Parliament,  by  such  acts  of 
Assembly  for  meliorating  the  state  of  the  slaves,  as  might  hold 
out  a  future  prospect  of  putting  an  end  to  the  trade,  by  pre- 
serving and  increasing  the  native  black  population ;  and  Lord 
Seaford,  as  chairman  of  the  Committee,  not  only  communi- 
cated resolutions  to  that  effect  to  the  different  islands  through 
their  agents*,  but  moved  for  and  obtained,  in  the  House  of 
Commons,  an  address  to  the  Crown,  recommending  such  im- 

This  proceeding,  which  took  place  in  1797,  backed  by  the 
most  urgent  solicitations  of  eminent  proprietors  resident  here, 
to  their  friends  in  the  islands,  gave  birth  to  most  of  the  meli- 
orating laws  ;  almost  every  enactment  of  which,  and  several  of 
their  express  recitals,  were  direct,  or  virtual  contradictions,  of 
the  evidence  given  seven  years  before. 

I  refer  for  those  laws  to  my  former  volume,  and  to  the  many 
parliamentary  papers  in  which  they  are  set  forth  at  large  ;  and 
dare  venture  to  affirm  that  no  man  can  read  many  of  their 
provisions  without  being  convinced  that  the  state  so  much 
eulogized  in  1790  was  one  of  the  most  opprobrious  rigour  and 
barbarity.  The  palliatory  remedies  prescribed,  shewed  suffi- 
ciently the  malignant  and  desperate  nature  of  the  case. 

Thenceforth  a  new  era,  and  a  new  source,  of  improvements. 

*  See  the  Resolutions  at  large,  and  some  of  the  correspondence,  in  papers 
printed  by  order  of  the  House  of  Commons  of  the  8th  June,  1804,  H.  58 — 
60.  The  second  Resolution,  which  will  suffice  to  characterise  the  whole 
proceeding,  was  in  the  following  terms  :  —  "  Resolved,  that  the  question  of 
"  abolition  will  continue  to  he  agitated  year  after  year,  and  as  -often  as  the 
"forms  of  the  House  permit ;  and  that  neither  the  House  of  Commons,  nor  the 
"  country  at  large,  will  suffer  it  to  rest  till  some  steps  have  been  taken  which 
"  may  afford  them  i^eason  to  believe  that  every  regulation  has  been  adopted 
"  which  is  consistent  with  the  safety  of  the  colonies^ 

Plan  oj  the  Second  Volume.  35 

were  adopted  by  the  colonial  apologists.  The  meliorating 
hnvs,  we  were  now  told,  had  done  every  thing  for  the  slaves 
that  could  possibly  be  done ;  and  to  every  new  charge  and 
proof  of  practical  oppression,  was  opposed  some  specious  pro- 
vision of  that  useless  and  impracticable  code.  Mr.  Barclay, 
as  we  have  partly  seen,  assuming  the  full  efficacy  of  those  idle 
enactments,  treats  them  not  merely  as  evidence  of  the  prac- 
tical improvements  he  alleges,  but  as  actually  constituting 
the  changes  from  admitted  precedent  rigour,  to  present  hu- 
manity :  and  there  is  not  one,  I  believe,  of  the  recent  writers 
on  the  colonial  side,  who  has  not  more  or  less  relied  on  the 
same  mode  of  defence.  Yet  every  one  of  those  laws  was  pos- 
terior in  date  to  the  parliamentary  evidence;  with  the  excep- 
tion of  the  first  Consolidation  Slave  Act  of  Jamaica,  which  had 
not  come  into  operation  till  the  year  preceding.  Besides,  all 
the  witnesses  who  testified  so  strongly  from  their  own  obser- 
vation as  to  the  then  existing  condition  of  the  slaves  through- 
out the  West  Indies,  had  quitted  that  country  at  antecedent 

To  resort  to  these  laws,  then,  in  defending  the  humanity  of 
the  system,  is  to  put  the  colonial  witnesses  of  1790  again  out 
of  court.  To  ascribe  the  new-born  humanity  to  the  moral  influ- 
ence of  those  laws  is,  if  possible,  still  stronger :  for  supposing 
merely  ostensible  and  impotent  laws  to  have  any  such  influ- 
ence, it  must  of  course  be  a  work  of  time  ;  yet  this  also  has 
been  alleged  as  a  cause  of  improvement  by  some  writers,  who 
felt  no  doubt  that  they  could  not  credibly  ascribe  to  the  me- 
liorating code,  in  opposition  to  a  host  of  proofs,  any  more  direct 
and  material  operation. 

Even  the  Jamaica  Assembly  has,  in  its  last  manufac- 
ture of  what  it  calls  evidence*  as  to  the  condition  of  the 

*  I  thus  describe  the  examinations  taken  by  a  committee  of  that  house 
in  1815,  in  opposition  to  Mr.  Wilberforce's  Register  Bill,  because  I  cannot 
consent  to  treat  as  really  deserving  the  name  of  evidence,  the  statements  of 
slave  masters  in  defence  of  their  own  system  and  their  own  characters,  col- 
lected for  the  purpose  of  defeating  a  measure  which  they  thought,  or  pro- 
fessed to  think,  however  preposterously,  would  be  fatal  to  their  properties 
or  their  lives. 

We  have  already    seen,  and   in  the   course  of  this   work  I  shall  more 

D    2 

36  Defence  of  the  I'iist,  and 

slaves,  resorted  to  this  indirect  cause  of  alleged  improve-' 
merits.  Several  of  the  planters  whose  testimony  is  given, 
asserted  that  the  condition  and  sreneral  treatment  of  the  slaves 


had  been  greatly  meliorated,  within  the  time  of  their  own  ex- 
perience; and  one  of  them,  Robert  William  Harris,  Esq.  speci- 
fied the  following  particulars,  to  which  I  request  particular 

**  As  to  the  hours  of  labour,  when  the  examinant  came  to 
"  the  Island  the  slaves  were  turned  out  full  an  hour  before 
"  day,  and  kept  out  as  long  after  dark.  Their  breakfast  was 
"  always  cooked  for  them,  and  they  were  allowed  half  an 
"  hour  to  eat  it,  and  two  hours  to  go  home  to  their  dinner. 
"  As  the  length  of  the  days,  on  an  average  through  the  year 
"  in  this  climate,  including  the  twilight,  is  about  twelve  hours 
"  and  a  half,  so  the  slaves   then  worked  twelve  hours  in  the 

abundantly  shew,  the  danger  of  listening  to  such  self-defensive  testimony^ 
though  given  in  this  country,  before  the  high  tribunal  of  parliament,  and  in 
the  presence  of  an  opposing  party,  as  well  as  impartial  judges  and  auditors, 
and  subject  to  the  test  of  cross-examination,  and  to  contradiction  by 
other  witnesses  :  but  in  these  examinations,  and  others  of  a  like  kind 
transmitted  from  different  colonies,  all  such  checks  are  wanting.  The 
judges,  the  examiners,  the  auditors,  and  the  witnesses,  are  all  parties  to 
the  controversy,  and  all  on  the  same  side ;  or  if  any  of  the  latter  appear 
by  their  descriptions  to  be  disinterested,  that  appearance  is  not  rarely  de- 
ceptions; for  it  does  not  follow  that  because  a  witness  is  described  as  a  mi- 
litary or  civil  officer,  a  lawyer  or  physician,  he  is  not  also  a  planter  or 
ov,'ner  of  slaves ;  still  less  that  he  is  not  so  connected  with  those  who  are, 
as  to  have  nearly  an  equal  biass.  The  presumption  from  residence  is 
strongly  the  other  way;  nor  have  the  examiners  in  any  instance,  to  my  re- 
collection, attempted  to  repel  that  presumption,  as  they  might  have  done, 
were  it  groundless,  by  proper  questions  to  the  witnesses  themselves. 

What  is  more  important  still,  a  witness  examined  in  the  West  Indies, 
must  not  only  be  sincere  and  impartial,  but  have  a  degree  of  courage 
amounting  to  temerity  and  self-devotedness,  who  should  dare  to  give  any 
testimony  on  these  subjects  on  the  anti-slavery  side.  If  such  willing  mar- 
tyrs to  the  cause  of  truth  and  humanity  were  to  be  found  on  the  spot,  their 
characters  were,  doubtless,  well  enough  known  to  prevent  their  being  called 
as  witnesses  on  these  ex  parte  and  extra-judicial  examinations. 

For  these  reasons,  I  shall  certainly  tliink  it  no  part  of  my  duty  to  state 
and  refute  such  testimony ;  but  the  same  considerations  will  intitle  me  to 
cite  with  the  greater  effect  from  it,  any  facts  which,  though  adduced  to  sup- 
port the  colonial  case,  may  be  used  for  its  refutation. 

Plan  of  I  he  Second  Voiiune.  37 

"  twenty-four.  At  present  the  same  time  is  allowed  for 
•*  breakfast  and  dinner:  but  the  slaves,  as  far  as  examinant 
"  sees,  are  only  required  to  work  in  the  field  in  daylight ;  and 
"  consequently  they  work  only  ten  hours  in  the  twenty-four, 
"  and  not  near  so  hard  as  formerly. 

"  In  respect  to   punishments,  amelioration  made    its   first 
"  stand  there.     As  far  as  has  come  within  exantinanfs  observa- 
"  tion,  the  punishments  of  the  present  day  hold  no  measure 
"  with  former  times;   and  are  mild  and  oentle  both  in  their 
"  natm"e   and    extent  when  compared  with   military  punish 
"  ments.     The   manners,   habits  and  condition  of  slaves  have 
"  been  greatly  ameliorated  since  he  came  to  the  island;  and, 
**  generally  speaking,  the  improvement  has  been  regular   and 
"  progressive  ;  and   he  considers  it  is  to  be  attributed  to  the 
"  operation  of  several    concurrent  causes.     In    the    first 
"  PLACE,  to  the  legal  enactments  and  the  7noral  iifiuence  of  the 
"  consolidated  slave  laiv.     Secondly,    to   the  increased  hu- 
"  manity  and  benevolence  of  the  proprietors,  which  led  them 
"  to  employ  and  get  out   people  of  better  education,  better 
"  principles  and  better  connections  for  the  planting  line  than 
"  were  formerly  employed  in   it.     Thirdly,  to  the  conse- 
"  quent  disposition  of  all  those   in  power  to  treat  the  slaves 
"  with  greater  lenity,  encouraging  them  to  be  christened,  and 
"  giving  the  head  negroes  more  confidence.     Fourthly,  to 
"  their  being  relieved   from  oppressive  duties  they  were  for- 
"  merly  subjected   to,  over  and  above  the  ordinary  labours  of 
"  agriculture  and   manufacture.      Fifthly,  the  progress  of 
"  improvement  not  having  been  interrupted  or  retarded  by 
"  the  accession  of  new  savages,  since  the  abolition  of  the  slave 
"  trader* 

Though  1  have  cited  the  testimony  of  this  long  experienced 
and  eminent  planter  only  for  the  immediate  purpose  of  fnr^ 
ther  shewing  how  often  the  dates  and  the  sources  of  alleo-ed 
improvements  have  been  shifted  by  the  assemblies  and  their 

*  Paper  intitled  Further  Proceedings  of  the  Honourable  House  of  As- 
sembly of  Jamaica,  relative  to  a  Bill  introduced  into  the  House  of  Commons 
&c.  (Mr.  Wilberforce's  Register  Bill).  Printed  by  Richardson,  1816  and 
widely  circulated  by  the  West  India  Committee  and  agents,  p.  83 — 81. 

38  Defence  of  the  First,  and 

advocates,  it  will  be  found  hereafter  to  have  a  substantive 
importance  in  the  question,  whether  there  have  been  any 
improvements  at  all ;  and  will  tend  much  to  elucidate  what 
I  shall  maintain  to  have  always  been,  and  still  to  be,  the 
worst  and  most  destructive  part  of  the  whole  system,  the  op- 
pressive excess  of  forced  labour.  I  pledge  myself  to  demon- 
strate that  what  is  here  admitted  to  have  been  its  former,  is 
far  short  of  its  present  amount. 

But  I  would  at  present  only  ask  my  readers  to  observe  the 
dates,  and  the  assigned  causes  of  improvement,  here  alleged. 
When  the  respectable  examinant  speaks  of  the  time  of  his 
first  arrival  in  the  island,  he  refers  to  the  year  1785,  or  some- 
what near  that  time  ;  probably  his  first  knowledge  of  the 
facts  he  specifies  was  later;  for  he  had  stated  himself  to  have 
resided  there  upwards  of  thirty  years,  and  his  examination 
is  dated  the  23rd  of  November,  1815.  But  supposing  him  to 
refer  to  a  state  of  things  not  more  recent  than  1785,  it  would 
still  synchronize  with  that  of  which  the  witnesses  of  1790  on 
the  colonial  side  gave  such  extremely  favourable  accounts ; 
as  they  had  for  the  most  part  quitted  the  West  Indies  several 
years  before  their  testimony  was  given,  and  their  accounts 
related  to  the  time  of  their  residence  there.  We  have  here, 
therefore,  an  admission,  not  in  general  terms  only,  but  by  the 
adduction  of  many  particulars,  that  those  accounts  were  un- 
founded in  fact. 

The  first  cause  of  improvement  here  assigned,  brings 
down  the  former  severity  to  a  much  later  date  ;  for  the  first 
Consolidation  Act  bears  date  the  6th  December,  1788,  and  its 
"  moral  injfuence"  on  the  feelings  and  manners  of  the  society, 
if  a  real,  must  have  been  rather  a  distant  effect.  The  three 
next,  as  the  reader  will  observe,  are  rather  consecutive  effects 
than  causes ;  and  the  last,  the  cessation  of  the  African  slave 
trade,  did  not  come  into  operation  till  the  year  1808. 

Such  was  the  new  and  inconsistent  defence  of  the  colonies 
in  1815,  when  the  Register  Bill  gave  rise  to  new  investiga- 
tions as  to  their  existing  interior  system. 

But  now  their  note  is  again  changed.  The  Consolidation 
Act,  and  the  other  meliorating  laws,  now  are  virtually  ad- 
mitted to  have  done  nothing,  either  by  their  direct  provisions 
or  moral  influence,   towards  the  improvements  in   question ; 

Plan  of  the  Second  Volume.  39 

for  the  present  watchword  of  the  jvarty  is  to  ascribe  them  to 
the  abohtioii  alone.  Even  Mr.  Barclay,  as  we  have  seen,  con- 
curs with  that  other  accredited  and  redoubted  champion  of 
the  colonies,  Mr.  M'Donnel,  in  regarding  the  non-admission 
of  "  savage  Africans,  or  of  a  rude  and  barbarous  people,"  as 
having  been  necessary  to  clear  the  foundation  of  his  alleged 
improvements.  Even  he,  in  affecting  to  contrast  the  present 
with  the  past,  tells  us  of  oppressions  that  existed  "  twentif 
"  and  ten  years  ago,"  as  the  strongest  he  could  find  for  his 

And  why  this  last  change  of  doctrine  ?  Why  not  still 
ascribe  the  good  work  rather  to  the  meliorating  laws,  which 
have  had  so  much  longer  a  reign  ?  Because  the  immediate 
objects  of  the  controversy  are  changed.  Because  the  practical 
question  now  is,  whether  the  meliorating  code  shall  be  ex- 
tended, pursuant  to  the  votes  of  Parliament  and  the  trouble- 
some though  most  humble  solicitations  of  the  crown.  To 
hold,  therefore,  that  such  laws  have  been  found  effectual, 
would  be  much  less  convenient  and  prudent,  than  to  maintain 
that  the  abolition  has  supplied  reformatory  principles  and 
motives,  such  as  have  already  done  much  and  will  progres- 
sively do  all  that  justice  and  humanity  require.  Should  the 
reader  not  be  satisfied  with  this  explanation,  let  him  find  if 
he  can  another. 

Here  let  me  point  out,  by  the  way,  a  new  and  glaring  in- 
consistency. If  we  suppose  the  colonists  sincere  in  attributing 
to  the  abolition  the  beneficent  efiects  they  allege,  and  that 
they  really  rejoice,  as  they  affect  to  do,  for  those  fruits  of  the 
measure,  how  shall  we  account  for  their  rancorous  animosity 
to  Mr.  Wilberforce  ?  The  patient  might  as  reasonably  hate 
and  reproach  the  skilful  physician  who  had  healed  him  ;  or 
the  penitent,  the  spiritual  monitor  who  had  turned  him  from 
his  sins. 

Mr.  Wilberforce  has  been  an  advocate  indeed  for  humane 
laws,  which  they  allege  to  be  no  longer  necessary  \  but  if  his 
indefatigable  labours  alone  have  made  them  so,  the  self-dispa- 
raging, and  therefore  honest  error,  should  surely  be  more  than 
outweighed  by  the  actual  and  inestimable  benefit  received. 
That  he  was  sincere,  could  not  be  doubted  ;  for  what  man,  or 
what  angel,  would  not  have  been  elated  to  take  to  himself. 

40  Defence  of  the  First,  and 

if  he  truly  could,  the  praise  of  having  effectually  alleviated 
the  galling  and  guilty  yoke  of  colonial  bondage ;  as  well  as 
put  an  end  to  the  slave  trade  !  Yet,  the  stores  of  vituperative 
language  are  ransacked  by  every  colonial  press  on  both  sides 
of  the  Atlantic,  in  the  vain  attempt  to  blast  his  well-earned 
laurels ;  and  in  the  attempt,  not  vain,  to  gratify  the  malignant 
feelings  of  slave  masters  towards  him.  Even  a  superior, 
but  young  and  inexperienced  mind,  one  who,  I  hope,  has  a 
moral  as  well  as  intellectual  superiority  to  common  men,  and 
therefore  will  not  be  ashamed  to  avow  involuntary  errors,  was 
so  seduced  by  the  contagious  sympathies,  which  in  a  very 
short  and  rapid  tour  through  the  islands  he  imbibed  at  every 
table  of  his  hospitable  entertainers,  as  not  only  to  become  on 
his  return  a  volunteer  apologist  of  their  system,  but  to  call 
the  now  confessed  author  of  all  that  he  thought  defensible  in 
it  "  the  once  glorious  Mr.  Wilberforce." 

But  I  will  press  these  remarks  no  further.  Enough  has 
been  said  to  shew,  that  there  is  no  presumption  in  favour  of 
the  recent  and  present  pretences  of  improvement,  either  from 
the  confidence  with  which  they  are  brought  forward,  or  the 
consistency  of  their  authors,  or  from  any  apparent  candour  in 
the  confessions  they  involve  of  past  and  once  denied  abuses. 

It  has  been  well  said  by  one  of  my  fellow-labourers,  that 
oppression  in  the  sugar  colonies  has  no  present  tense ;  and  I 
may  add,  that  humanity  has  hardly  a  past  one.  Every  new 
defence  calls  every  former  one  a  cheat. 

And  now  I  will  answer  the  other  question  which  my  readers 
were  supposed  likely  to  put. 

"  Do  I  contend  that  no  general  improvement  in  the  treat- 
**  ment  of  slaves  has  yet  actually  taken  place  ?"  Yes;  speak- 
ing of  the  temporal  lot  of  the  field  negroes,  in  all  the  most  im- 
portant points,  and  of  their  spiritual  interests  too,  with  few  and 
slight  exceptions,  I  verily  and  conscientiously  do.  Different 
degrees  of  severity  there  are,  and  always  have  been,  on  diffe- 
rent estates,  according  to  the  various  dispositions  and  circum- 
stances of  their  managers  or  owners  ;  but  in  those  grand  arti- 
cles, and  main  sources  of  ordinary  oppression,  under  which 
the  field  negroes  suffer  and  die ;  in  the  fatal  excess  of  labour, 
and  with  some  local  and  accidental  exceptions,  in  the  penury 
of  maintenance  also,  the  case  in  general  is  little,  if  at  all 

Plan  of  the  Second  Volume.  4 1 

better  than  it  was  forty  years  ago.     This  I  maintain;  and  this 
I  undertake  to  estabUsh. 

Leaving  the  clear  elucidation  and  proof  of  these  views  to 
the  following  sheets,  I  proceed  to  apprise  my  readers  more 
distinctly,  of  the  plan  and  limits  of  the  work  now  presented 
to  them. 

The  condition  of  the  slaves  in  point  of  law,  was  delineated 
under  three  principal  heads. 

The  slave  laws  were  considered,  1st,  as  constituting  the  re- 
lation between  master  and  slave. 

2dly.  As  they  repect  questions  between  the  slaves  and 
persons  of  free  condition  in  general. 

3dly.  As  they  affect  the  slave  in  his  relation  to  the  state, 
as  an  object  of  civil  government  and  protection.  * 

I  might  now,  were  it  my  wish  to  give  a  complete  account 
of  all  the  practical  evils  and  crimes  that  belong  to  the  system, 
follow  the  same  divisions;  for  in  each  of  these  relations,  the 
slaves  might  be  shewn  to  be  practically  and  grievously  op- 
pressed. But  I  have  already,  in  my  account  of  the  laws,  under 
the  second  and  third  heads,  noticed  incidentally  some  of  their 
practical  effects ;  and  it  was  professed  at  the  outset  not  to 
be  my  aim  in  delineating  this  odious  institution,  to  say  all 
that  could  truly  be  said  against  it ;  but  only  so  much  as  might 
suffice  to  shew  that  it  is  too  bad  to  be  tolerated  by  a  Christian 
legislature,  a  moment  longer  than  strict  necessity  requires,  f 
Therefore,  and  for  the  reasons  before  assigned,  though  I  may 
have  occasion  sometimes  to  notice,  as  connected  with  the  rela- 
tion to  the  master,  evils  that  more  directly  belong  to  the  slave's 
depressed  and  helpless  situation  in  his  relations  to  the  free 
classes,  and  to  the  state  itself,  the  practical  consequences  of 
the  master's  formidable  power,  will  be  the  chief  subject  of 
the  present  book. 

The  law  as  between  master  and  slave,  was  delineated  by  its 
principal  canons  or  rules;  of  which  I  distinguished  twelve,! 

*  Vol.  I.  p.  32.  t  Ibid.  p.  11.  t  Ibid.  p.  18. 

42  Defence  of  the  First,  and 

but  it  is  in  shewing  the  mischiefs  which  flow  from  the  3d, 
4th,  and  5th  of  these,  and  more  especially  the  3d,  that  my 
remaining  labors  will  be  chiefly  employed:  I  will  therefore  re- 
peat them  here. 

Rule  3d.  The  master  is  the  sole  arbiter  of  the  kind,  and  de- 
gree, and  time  of  labour  to  which  the  slave  shall  be  subjected ; 
and  of  the  subsistence,  or  means  of  obtaining  a  subsistence, 
that  shall  be  given  in  return. 

Rule  4th.  The  master  may  imprison,  beat,  scourge,  wound, 
and  otherwise  afflict  or  injure  the  person  of  his  slave,  at  his 

Rule  5th.  These  harsh  powers  of  the  master  may  all  be 
exercised,  not  only  by  him  in  person,  but  by  his  representatives 
and  agents  of  every  description,  and  by  every  person,  whe- 
ther bond  or  free,  who  is  clothed  in  any  manner  with  his 

In  delineating  the  ordinary  exercise  of  these  powers,  I  shall 
confine  myself  to  the  treatment  of  the  predial  slaves,  com- 
monly called  the  "field  negroes  f  not  only  because  these  form 
by  far  the  most  numerous  class,  amounting  probably  to  four- 
fifths  of  the  whole  enslaved  population,  but  because  it  is  upon 
them,  that  the  slavery  of  the  sugar  colonies  falls  with  the  hea- 
viest and  most  destructive  pressure.  Domestics,  are  likely  to 
suffer  more  from  the  anger,  the  revenge,  the  suspicion,  and 
other  malevolent  feelings  of  the  master ;  with  whom  they  are 
brought,  much  oftener  than  the  field  negroes,  into  personal 
contact  and  collision  ;  but  his  avarice,  that  far  wider  and 
surer  source  of  oppression,  is  opposed  to  the  comfort,  the 
health,  and  often  the  existence,  of  the  predial  slaves.  They 
are  on  sugar  plantations,  as  I  shall  shew,  universally  over- 

*  The  exceptions,  and  pretended  exceptions,  to  these  rules  were  noticed 
in  the  proper  places  in  my  former  volume ;  and  it  would  be  tedious  to 
repeat  them  here.  It  would  be  equally  tedious,  nor  is  it  necessary,  to  no- 
tice in  this  place,  such  further  exceptions  as  have  been  added  by  subsequent 
Acts  of  Assembly,  or  Orders  of  Council.  They  will  properly  belong  to  a 
second  edition  of  my  former  volume,  or  "  Law  of  Slavery,"  if  I  live  to  pre- 
pare one.  Meantime  such  alterations  of  the  law  as  have  any  material  con- 
nection with  my  limited  account  of  the  practical  system,  shall  be  noticed  in 
those  respective  divisions  of  my  subject  to  which  they  relate. 

Plan  of  the  Second  Volume.  43 

worked,  and  for  the  most  part  under-fed,  not  because  the 
proprietor  is  cruel,  nor  always  because  he  is  too  greedy  of  gain, 
but  because  most  proprietors  are  necessitous ;  and  because  all, 
having  acquired  their  estates  after  progressive  competition 
had  pushed  the  exaction  of  forced  labour  to  its  present  ex- 
tent, they  cannot,  without  great  sacrifice  of  present  income, 
or  the  protection  of  a  general  law,  reduce  it  to  such  bounds 
as  would  consist  with  the  physical  or  moral  well-being,  or  ge- 
nerally even  with  the  preservation,  of  the  slaves.  I  do  not, 
therefore,  mean  to  describe  or  notice,  unless  incidentally  and 
by  way  of  illustration,  any  of  the  oppressions  under  which 
they  suffer,  except  those  which  I  hold,  and  have  ever  held,  to 
be  the  most  cruel  and  destructive,  as  well  as  the  most  general 
and  inherent  to  the  system,  excess  of  labour,  and  insufficiency 
of  maintenance;  in  other  words,  those  abuses  of  the  master's 
power  which  arise  from  his  selfish,  not  his  malevolent  feelings. 

Incidental,  however,  to  these  main  topics,  and  inseparably 
connected  with  a  fair  consideration  of  them,  is  the  discipline 
by  which  labour  is  coerced  ;  the  harsh  and  brutalizing  nature 
of  which  greatly  aggravates  the  ill  effects  of  its  excess,  and 
constitutes  at  the  same  time,  a  third  head  of  oppression,  not 
less  general  than  the  two  former,  and  springing  from  the  same 
ordinary  motives. 

My  practical  delineation  then,  will  be  much  narrower  in  its 
plan,  though  not  I  fear  in  its  bulk,  than  my  account  of  the 
Slave  Laws ;  and  shall  be  arranged  as  follows  : — 

1st.  I  will  state  and  consider  the  forced  labour  imposed  on 
the  slaves  of  sugar  plantations  in  its  ordinary  nature  and 
amount;  premising  some  remarks  on  human  labour  in  the 
Torrid  Zone  in  general,  and  subjoining  a  comparative  view  of 
agricultural  labour  in  England. 

2d.  I  will  describe  the  means  of  coercion  and  discipline  by 
which  their  labour  is  enforced. 

3rd.  I  will  state  the  ordinary  treatment  of  the  slaves  in  res- 
pect of  food,  clothing,  and  other  necessaries  provided  by  the 

After  which,  I  propose  briefly  to  review  the  state  of  colonial 
slavery  as  thus  delineated  both  in  law  and  practice ;  and  to 
conclude  with  some  practical  suggestions. 

44  Of  Agricidlural  Labour 



The  main  object  of  slavery  in  the  sugar  colonies  is  the  obtain- 
ing, by  compulsion,  the  labour  of  negroes  in  the  cultivation 
of  the  land. 

It  is  maintained  by  the  planters,  that  there  are  no  other 
possible  means  by  which  West  India  produce  can  be  raised  ; 
because  Europeans,  as  they  allege,  cannot,  and  negroes,  in  a 
j  state  of  freedom,  will  not,  till  the  soil  in  that  climate.  The 
'  former  of  these  propositions  was  disputed  by  some  early  wri- 
ters in  the  abolition  controversy,  who  were  not  personally  ac- 
quainted with  the  West  Indies;  and  there  are  certainly  some 
plausible  grounds  for  denying  that  it  is  strictly  and  universally 
true ;  but  it  has  never  been  controverted  by  me.  Nor  do  I 
think  that  it  can  be  fairly  denied,  to  an  extent  material 
to  the  practical  question  for  the  sake  of  which  it  has  been 
maintained ;  for  Europeans  certainly  cannot  work  so  much 
there  in  the  tillage  of  the  soil,  without  speedy  destruction  of 
health  and  life,  as  to  make  their  labour  in  the  raising  of  sugar 
a  substitute  that  the  planter  can  afford,  while  the  black  or 
coloured  race,  whether  slaves  or  free,  are  their  competitors. 

On  the  first  settlement  of  our  oldest  West  Indian  colonies, 
Europeans,  I  admit,  were  employed  in  the  labours  of  the 
field  ;  but  they  were  chiefly  transported  convicts,  or  indented 
servants,  who  worked  by  compulsion  ;  and  at  a  time  when 
sugar  planting,  incomparably  the  most  laborious  species  of 
agriculture,  was  in  its  infancy,  and  was  prosecuted  to  but  a 
small  extent. 

The  general  incapacity  of  white  men  to  endure  such  labours 
between  the  tropics,  arises  from    two  causes ;   the   noxious 

ill  /he  Torrid  Zone.  45 

effects  of  long  exposure  to  the  rays  of  the  sun ;  and  the  ex- 
hausting tendency  of  vigorous  action  in  a  highly  heated  at- 
mosphere ;  by  the  first  of  which  negroes  seem  not  to  be  at  all 
annoyed,  and  by  the  other  in  a  niuch  less  degree  than  natives 
of  the  temperate  zones.  The  noontide  solar  blaze  in  that 
climate  cannot  in  general  be  sustained  by  our  countrymen  for 
any  great  length  of  time,  though  in  a  state  of  rest,  without 
uneasy  sensations,  and  injury  to  the  nervous  system  ;  while  to 
the  blacks  it  is  quite  innoxious.  The  one,  therefore,  would 
be  distressed  and  exhausted  by  such  a  continuance  or  in- 
tensity of  field  labour,  as  the  other  might,  without  injury, 

But  in  this  latter  point,  the  difference  is  more  in  degree 
than  in  kind;  for  brisk  and  vigorous  action  subjects  the  negro, 
as  well  as  the  European,  to  a  redundant  perspiration,  pro- 
portionate to  the  heat  of  the  atmosphere  in  which  the  ex- 
ertion is  made;  and  with  both,  the  natural  effect  is  exhaustion 
of  strength  and  spirits.  The  black  can  work  much  more  than 
the  white  man  in  that  burning  region ;  but  cannot,  without 

*  Let  me  not  be  understood  for  a  moment,  as  giving'  any  countenance 
here  to  the  apologies  that  are  made  for  slavery  or  slave  trade,  on  the  score 
of  this  physical  inferiority  of  European  labourers  between  the  tropics.  In 
a  moral  view,  they  are  too  preposterous  for  serious  refutation.  But  the 
defence,  as  usual  in  like  cases,  has  been  extended  tacitly  to  much  iniquity 
that  does  not  fall  within  the  range  even  of  its  own  bad  principle.  Of 
indoor  labours,  and  domestic  service,  our  free  fellow  subjects  of  this  country 
are  not  less  capable  in  the  West  Indies  than  negroes  are;  and  at  a  former 
period,  the  artificers  and  mechanical  labourers  in  those  colonies  were  chiefly 
white  men ;  but  now,  domestic  service,  and  almost  all  mechanical  employ- 
ments, are  exclusively  allotted  to  negroes  or  mulattoes  ;  and,  for  the  most 
part,  to  slaves.  Though  so  many  of  our  fellow-subjects  here  are  distressed 
for  want  of  employment  in  various  lines,  and  would  be  glad  to  go  for  it  to 
the  West  Indies  on  easy  terms,  thereby  relieving  us  in  some  measure  from 
the  evils  of  a  redundant  population,  this  resource  is  shut  to  them  ;  while 
the  pestilent  influence  of  slavery  on  morals  and  manners,  is  needlessly  and 
fatally,  caiTied  from  the  fields  into  the  parlour,  the  nursery  and  the  work- 
It  would  be  easy  to  shew  tliat  the  domestic  slavery  of  the  colonies  has, 
in  its  natural  effects,  much  embittered  the  predial ;  and  that  the  abolition  of 
the  one,  would  make  the  mitigation  and  progressive  termination  of  the 
other,  a  work  of  great  facility,  and  perfect  safety.  But  this  is  too  large  and 
important  a  subject  for  incidental  discussion. 

46  Of  Agricultural  Labour 

prejudice  to  health,  work  so  much  as  an  Enghshman  of  the 
same  bodily  strength  can  in  his  native  climate.  The  field 
negro,  indeed,  is  driven,  as  I  shall  shew,  to  actual  exertions 
far  exceeding,  in  duration  at  least,  any  that  our  hardiest  pea- 
sants sustain  in  this  temperate  climate  ;  but  not  without  the 
most  distressing  and  fatal  effects. 

Had  the  primeval  curse  equally  affected  the  earth  itself  in 
every  latitude,  the  natives  of  the  Torrid  Zone,  slavery  apart, 
would  in  this  respect  have  felt  it  more  than  the  rest  of  their 
species.  The  sweat  of  the  brow,  and  the  sufferings  of  the 
wearied  labourer,  would  have  been  pre-eminently  theirs.  But 
the  Creator's  works  abound  with  compensatory  and  equalizing 
expedients.  The  same  fervent  atmosphere  that  makes  arduous 
long  continued  labour  much  more  irksome,  lessens  greatly  the 
need  of  it;  by  quickening  the  process  of  vegetation,  and  giving 
to  the  soil  with  little  culture  a  much  greater  fertility  than  la- 
borious tillage  will  impart  to  it  in  the  temperate  zones.  Many 
nutritious  fruits,  grateful  to  the  taste  of  man,  and  well  fitted 
for  his  support,  such  as  the  plantain,  the  banana,  the  bread 
fruit,  and  the  cocoa  nut,  are  either  the  spontaneous  growth  of 
the  soil,  or  when  once  planted,  require  scarcely  any  further 
toil,  but  yield  perennially,  a  copious  supply  of  food. 

An  attentive  observer  of  the  works  of  God  in  the  animal  and 
vegetable  world,  might  infer  a  priori  from  these  facts,  that  in- 
feriority in  the  inhabitants  of  hot  climates  to  ourselves  in  la- 
borious activity,  which  they  always  exhibit  when  their  native 
propensities  are  unsubdued  by  the  yoke  of  private  bondage ; 
and  might  infer  also,  that  such  a  disposition,  if  not  carried  to 
H  vicious  excess,  conduces  to  their  physical  welfare.  In  that 
beautiful  and  deservedly  popular  work  of  Dr.  Paley,  his  Natural 
Theology,  he  has  shewn  in  a  multitude  of  instances,  how  won- 
derfully seeming  defects  or  disparities  in  the  powers  or  facul- 
ties of  different  animals,  and  in  the  provisions  made  for  their 
support  and  well  being,  are  supplied  or  compensated  by  their 
respective  positions,  propensities,  and  habits.  All  are  sup- 
plied with  adequate  means  of  providing  for  their  natural  wants; 
but  without  superfluity  ;  so  that  the  faculties  and  powers  of  a 
particular  organization  in  any  species  of  animal  being  given, 
we  may  generally  infer  corresponding  and  proportionate  neces- 
sities ;  and  vice  versa,  when  the  latter  are  known,  we  may  be 

in  the  Torrid  Zone.  47 

led  to  expect  an  adaptation  of  the  former,  antecedently  to 
any  zoological  observations  of  the  fact.  The  interior  cistern 
of  the  camel,  for  instance,  might  teach  us  that  he  was  des- 
tined to  traverse  the  dry  deserts  of  Africa  ;  and  the  various 
powers  of  the  elephant's  proboscis  might  be  expected  from 
the  unwieldy  bulk  of  his  frame. 

Man,  the  favourite  care  of  Providence,  even  in  its  sublunary 
scheme,  was  destined  to  inhabit  every  region  of  the  globe ; 
and  his  reason,  while  a  free  agent,  enables  him  amidst  all  the 
diversities  of  climate  and  situation,  so  to  fence  against  their 
disadvantages  by  artificial  means,  as  to  preserve  his  being  in 
them  all.  But  as  reason  and  foresight,  have  no  steady  or  cer- 
tain influence,  he  is  guarded  also  by  strong  instinctive  pro- 
pensities, against  a  fatal  departure  from  those  habits  which 
his  local  position  demands.  In  temperate  regions,  he  finds 
vigorous  bodily  action  rather  pleasant  than  the  reverse  ;  and 
though  naturally  prone  to  prefer  the  stimulating  employments 
of  the  chace  or  war,  to  the  monotonous  labours  of  the  husband- 
man, he  has  no  such  strong  aversion  to  these,  as  the  rewards 
of  industry  in  a  civilised  state  of  society  will  not  overcome  ; 
but  in  the  torrid  zone,  his  instincts  are  very  strongly  on  the 
side  of  rest  and  ease ;  he  shrinks  from  continuous  labour  on 
the  sultry  glebe ;  and  delights  in  the  shade,  not  only  for  re- 
freshment but  repose. 

Nor  is  it  true,  as  the  apologists  of  negro  slavery  now  in- 
sidiously pretend,  that  these  propensities  belong  to  the  inha- 
bitants of  hot  climates  only  when  they  are  in  a  barbarous 
state ;  and  may  be  vanquished  by  the  larger  excitements  of 
industry  in  an  advanced  stage  of  civilization.  In  the  most 
polished  countries  of  the  East,  the  indisposition  to  arduous 
and  long  continued  agricultural  labour  is  notoriously  great, 
and  the  industry  of  the  free  peasants  is  vastly  inferior  to  that 
of  the  same  classes  in  Europe.  Even  the  Chinese,  whose 
high  state  of  civilization  will  not  be  disputed,  and  whose  re- 
dundant population  imposes  on  them  the  necessity  of  being 
industrious  in  the  culture  of  their  soil,  form  no  exception  to 
this  remark.  It  is  clear,  at  least,  as  I  shall  hereafter  shew, 
that  their  labour  was  regarded  as  mere  idleness  by  our  plan- 
ters, when  put  in  comparison  with  that  of  slaves  working 
under  the  drivers  ;  for  in  Trinadad,  the  experiment  was  tried 

48  Of  Agricu/turul  J^ahoxr 

of  working  their  sugar  estates  by  labourers  imported  fr6m 
China  ;  and  its  complete  failure,  when  shewn  hereafter  in 
the  proper  place,  will  be  found  highly  instructive. 

If  these  general  characteristics  were  not  too  notorious  to  be 
disputed,  I  might  support  them  by  the  authority  of  many 
eminent  writers  ;  and  even  by  that  of  some  distinguished 
champions  of  colonial  slavery  ;  since  they  adduce  as  an  apo- 
logy for  that  odious  institution,  the  necessity  of  counteracting 
by  force,  these  strong  natural  propensities  of  its  unfortunate 
subjects.  They  find,  strange  to  say,  a  defence  of  the  coercive 
whip,  in  the  peculiar  pains  and  privations  that  it  imposes  on 
those  chartered  libertines  of  nature,  the  natives  of  a  tropical 
climate.  Because,  from  the  exuberance  of  the  soil,  they  need 
not  work  hard  for  themselves,  it  is  inferred,  that  may  be  justly 
enslaved,  and  whipped  into  hard  work  for  the  profit  of  others. 
The  very  bounty  of  God,  is  thus  made  a  plea  for  the  tyranny 
and  cruelty  of  man.*' 

*  Lest  I  should  be  supposed  here  to  deal  unfairly  with  my  colonial  op- 
ponents, let  me  quote  the  language  of  one  of  them  who  is  nearly  one  of 
the  most  recent,  and  seems  to  claim  a  distinguished  place  in  ])oint  of  au- 
thority among  them;  I  mean  Major  Moodi/,  late  of  the  Colonial  Office,  in 
his  reports  as  a  commissioner  of  enquiry  into  the  state  of  the  captured  and 
apprenticed  Africans,  printed  by  order  of  the  House  of  Commons  in  1825. 

As  it  may  be  supposed  a  departure  from  my  rule  to  quote  a  writer  so 
described,  it  is  necessary  to  add  that  he  is  a  West  Indian  ;  not  as  I  believe 
by  birth;  but  by  habits,  attachments  and  connections.  He  was  long  resi- 
dent in  the  sugar  colonies,  and  for  some  time  a  proprietor  and  m.anager  of 
estates  in  Demerara;  and  his  official  reports  are  throughout  an  elaborate  and 
zealous  defence  of  negro  slavery.  They  are  very  voluminous,  and  abound 
so  much  with  passages  to  my  present  purpose,  that  it  is  difficult  to  choose 
among  them. 

It  would  appear,  from  the  Major's  own  account,  that  not  only  during  his 
mission,  but  in  his  previous  employments,  it  had  been  the  great  business 
of  his  life  to  lucubrate  on  what  he  stiles  the  " philosophy  of  labour"  the 
fundamental,  and  almost  the  only  distinguishable  tenet  of  which  is,  that  the 
natives  of  tropical  climates  disrelish  agricultural  labour  too  much  to  addict 
themselves  to  it  sufficiently  without  compulsion  ;  and  its  chief  or  only  prac- 
tical doctrine,  is  that  slavery  ought  to  be  maintained,  as  a  necessary  mean 
of  raising  sugar  for  the  consumption  of  this  country.  The  Major  seems 
originally  to  have  doubted,  though,  perhaps,  no  other  intelligent  man  ever 
did,  of  the  general  propensity  I  have  mentioned  ;  for  he  boasts  of  having 

in  the  Torrid  Zone.  49 

It  seems  to  have  never  entered  into  the  imaginations   of 
these  gentlemen,  that  feeUngs  so  strong  and  so  general  as  they 

taken  great  pains  to  establish  it,  by  enquiries  in  different  regions  of  the 

The  result,  as  he  shews  with  anxious  and  endless  iteration,  is,  that  the 
agricultural  labourer  in  the  torrid  zone,  is  strongly  indisposed  to  steady 
exertion,  not  merely  by  the  pain  that  it  imposes  from  the  heat  of  the  at- 
mosphere, but  by  the  privation  of  greatly  desired  pleasures. 

Speaking  of  the  difficulty  of  obtaining  agricultural  labour  from  en- 
franchised slaves,  he  says :  —  "  Though  their  former  habits  as  slaves  may 
"  make  them  feel  the  pain  of  stcadj/  industry  in  a  less  degree,  it  is  not 
"  sufficient  that  they  should  encounter  the  pain  of  labour  in  the  sun ;  they 
"  must  also  be  able  to  resist  the  seducing  pleasures  afforded  by  repose 
"in  the  shade  —  the  very  enjoyment  which  their  former  state  of  slavery 
"  prevented  their  obtaining  —  the  enjoyment  sought  for  and  prized  by  all 
"  around  them.  By  what  motive,"  he  asks,  "  are  these  men  to  be  witli- 
"  drawn  from  the  pleasure  of  repose,  which  has  a  value  so  much  higher  in 
"  the  torrid  zone  than  in  Europe  ?  Any  man  may  convince  himself  that 
"  this  enjoyment  of  repose  is  a  high  pleasure,  by  honestly  examining  his 
"  own  inclination  for  any  laborious  exertion  in  the  open  air,  when  the  sun 
*'  in  Europe  radiates  a  heat  measured  by  80  degrees  of  the  thermometer.'' 
— Report,  2d  part,  p.  55,  50  and  75,  and  1st  part,  p.  132. 

Again  :  "  In  warm  climates,  repose  'is  one  of  the  strongest  desires  of 
"  men."  He  further  observes,  that  this  propensity  is  by  no  means  the 
mere  effect  of  habit,  or  one  even  the  long  practical  controul  of  which  will 
remove  its  powerful  influence.  "  In  the  torrid  zone,  where  steady  labour 
"  in  the  sun  is  painful  from  the  physical  influence  of  heat,  time  cannot 
"  altogether  remove  the  pain  felt,  though  it  prepares  the  bodies  of  some 
"  men  to  endure  it.  No  dexterity  in  the  use  of  tools  can  diminish  the 
"  heat  of  the  sun's  rays ;  and  at  the  end  of  forty  years,  as  at  the  end  of 
"  four  months,  the  pleasure  of  repose  in  the  shade  is  found  to  be  most 
"  powerful  in  diminishing  voluntary  steady  industry,"  &c.  —  Report,  2nd 
part,  p.  77. 

From  these  premises  the  Major  strangely  enough  infers  our  moral  right 
to  persist  in  the  use  of  slavery  and  the  cart- whip,  under  the  softening 
names,  which  he  every  where  chooses  to  give  them,  of  "  coiistraint," 
'^  physical  force, '^  '■'^  coercion"  and  the  like.  He  does  not  condescend,  in- 
deed, to  enter  into  any  ethical  disquisitions  on  the  subject;  thinking  it 
enough  to  shew  that  we  shall  otherwise  be  undersold  in  the  sugar  markets 
of  Europe;  for  "  if  the  capitalist  in  one  colony,"  he  justly  argues, 
"  raised  colonial  produce  at  a  greater  expence,  in  the  end  the  cheapest 
"  would  drive  the  dearest  produce  out  of  any  market  wherein  there  may 
"  be  a  competition,  &c.  Any  nation,  therefore,"  he  adds,  "  adopting  a 
"  mode  of  local  police,  or  interior  government,  which  gave  to  the  landed 
"  colonial  capitalist  a  moral  or  physical  force  to  coerce  the  labour  of  the 
VOL.  11.  E 

50  Of  Agricultural  Labour 

describe,  might  possibly  have  been  implanted  by  the  benig- 
nant Author  of  our  natures  for  kind  and  conservatory  ends; 
and  that  the  aversion  to  long  continued  field  labour  in  the 
torrid  zone  might  perhaps  form  no  exception  to  that  very 
fi^eneral  rule,  that  what  is  excessively  irksome  to  our  bodily 
sensations,  is  unfriendly  to  health  and  life.  Yet  those  who 
insist  continually  on  the  importance  of  attending  to  "physical 
''facts,  and  sneer  at  the  advocates  of  the  poor  Africans  for 
neglecting  them,*  might  have  been  led  by  experience  to  infer 
that  such  is  the  case.  The  striking  and  deplorable  preva- 
lence of  disease  and  mortality,  and  the  rapid  decline  of  a  race 
naturally  strong  and  prolific  beyond  the  rest  of  mankind, 
whenever  those  native  propensities  are  so  effectually  con- 
trouled,  as  they  are  by  the  whip  on  sugar  estates,  might  have 
suggested  to  them  that  nature  was  probably  right  in  this  in- 
stance, and  relentless  avarice  in  the  wrong. 

They  might  have  adverted  also  to  historical,  as  well  as  living 
facts,  comparing  the  exuberant  Indian  population  of  the 
Antilles,  Mexico  and  Peru,  when  first  discovered  by  the 
Spaniards,   with    their    subsequent   depopulated    state ;    and 

"  Africans  in  return  for  subsistence,  and  a  moderate  scale  of  comforts, 
"  would  possess  a  decided  advantage  over  the  colonists  and  agricultural 
"  capitalists  of  any  other  nation,  who  should  adopt  a  mode  of  police  or 
"  government  obtaining  a  smaller  quantum  of  exertions  for  a  much  greater 
"  rate  of  wages  or  allowances,"  Sec. — 2nd  part,  p.  16. 

It  is  plain  that  this  gentleman  thinks  not  only  that  for  these  reasons 
the  enfranchised  African  captives  ought  to  be  replaced  in  slavery,  which 
is  the  obvious  and  main  drift  of  his  work,  but  that  the  slave  trade  ought 
to  be  restored ;  for  he  holds  that  our  colonies  cannot  raise  sugar  on  terms 
so  cheap  as  those  foreign  countries  in  which  the  trade  is  still  allowed. 
"  The  time  is  fast  approaching  when  the  proprietors  will  be  no  longer 
"  able  to  produce  sugar,  or  other  articles  having  an  exchangeable  value, 
"  in  Europe,  from  the  competition  of  Foreign  colonies  with  cheaper  agri- 
"  culture,  from  their  still  carrying  on  the  slave  trade."  —  Report,  1st  part, 
p.  131. 

If  so,  his  principles  of  political  economy  are  evidently  as  applicable  to 
the  defence  of  slave  trade  as  of  slavery  ;  and  they  are  equally  uncontrouUed 
by  moral  considerations ;  unless  it  be  more  criminal  to  relapse  into  the 
African  trade  ourselves,  than  to  reinslave  its  captured  victims,  after  we  have 
taken  them  from  the  foreign  slave  traders,  under  the  pretext  of  makingthem 

*  See  the  same  Reports  of  Major  Moody  in  a  hundred  places. 

in  the  Torrid  Zone.  51 

recognizing  in  the  tyranny  of  forced  labour,  when  opposed 
to  those  native  propensities,  the  source  of  the  appalling  con- 

*  Charlevoix,  taking  tlie  medium  of  different  accounts,  supposes  the 
native  inhabitants  of  St.  Domingo,  when  first  discovered  by  the  Spaniards, 
to  have  been  about  a  million  and  a  half.  He  agrees  with  all  other  writers 
in  describing  them  as  the  happiest  and  most  amiable  of  mankind. — Histoire 
de  St.  Domingo,  liv.  i. 

Mr.  Washington  Irving,  in  his  very  valuable  work  recently  published^ 
A  History  of  the  Life  and  Voyages  of  Columbus,  has  given  a  very  particular 
and  highly  interesting  account  of  their  character  and  manners  ;  and  of 
the  commencement  and  early  progress  of  that  forced  labour  by  which  the 
avaricious  tyranny  of  the  Spaniards  soon  effected  their  entire  extermina- 
tion. Unfeeling,  indeed,  must  be  that  mind,  in  which  their  sad  story,  as 
told  in  his  pages,  fails  to  excite  the  most  lively  emotions  of  pity  and  in- 
dignation.— See  especially,  book.  ii.  chap.  10;  and  book  viii.  chap.  7. 

"  Deep  despair  now  fell  upon  the  natives,  when  they  found  a  perpetual 
'*  task  inflicted  upon  them.  Weak  and  indolent  by  nature,  unused  to 
"  labour  of  any  kind,  and  brought  up  in  the  untasked  idleness  of  their  soft 
"  climate,  and  their  fruitful  groves,  death  itself  seemed  preferable  to  a  life 
*'  of  toil.  The  pleasant  life  of  the  island  was  at  an  end  ;  the  dream  in  the 
"  shade  by  day,  the  slumber  during  the  sultry  noon-tide  heat  by  the 
"  fountain  or  the  stream,  or  under  the  spreading  palm,  tree,  and  the  song, 
"  the  dance  and  the  game  in  the  mellow  evening,  when  summoned  to  their 
"  simple  amusements  by  the  rude  Indian  drum.  They  were  now  obliged 
"  to  grope,  day  by  day,  with  bending  bodies  and  anxious  eye,  along  the 
"  borders  of  their  rivers,  sifting  the  sand  for  the  grains  of  gold,  or  to 
"  labour  in  their  fields  beneath  the  fervour  of  a  tropical  sun,  to  raise  food 
"  for  their  task-masters.  They  sunk  to  sleep,  weary  and  exhausted  with 
"  the  certainty  that  the  next  day  was  to  be  but  a  repetition  of  the  same  toil 
"  and  suffering.  Or  if  they  occasionally  indulged  in  their  national  dances, 
"  the  ballads  to  which  they  kept  time  were  of  a  melancholy  and  plaintive 
"  character.  They  spoke  of  the  times  that  were  past,  before  the  white 
"  men  had  introduced  sorrow  and  slavery  and  weary  labour  among 
« them." 

The  terrible  and  fatal  consequences  are  narrated  by  Mr.  Irving  with 
great  particularity,  and  in  a  like  impressive  style.  They  resist  while  re- 
sistance is  possible ;  they  fly  to  their  mountain  tops  and  woods ;  but  are 
every  where  pursued  and  slaughtered,  or  brought  back  by  their  remorseless 
and  indefatigable  oppressors.  They  perish  by  thousands  from  hunger, 
fatigue,  and  hardships  of  every  kind ;  till  at  length  opposition  is  effectually 
quelled ;  and  they  submit  in  despair  to  that  cruel  and  murderous  drudgery, 
or,  in  the  style  of  our  philosopher  of  labour,  to  that  "  steady  industry" 
of  which  death  is  the  slow,  but  sure  result. 

E    2 

52  Of  Agricultural  Laboitr 

Modern  Hayti,  in  its  reversal  of  the  barbarous  experiment, 
has  sufficiently  taught  the  same  important  lesson  ;  for  there 
the  depopulating  power  of  death,  and  the  driving  whip  re- 
tired together.  Notwithstanding  all  the  destruction  that  the 
most  sanguinary  long  continued  insurrectionary  wars — wars 
waged  at  last  for  the  very  purpose  of  extermination,  could 
effect ;  in  spite  of  systematic  massacre,  and  all  that  blood- 
hounds, and  hell-hounds,  could  do  to  reduce  the  black  popula- 
tion, the  tide  of  human  life  has  risen  there  again  to  its  pris- 
tine flood  mark  ;  and  promises  soon  to  overflow.  No  change 
of  those  immoral  habits  to  which  our  planters  would  ascribe 
the  sterility  and  morality  of  their  slaves,  has  taken  place  in 
Hayti ;  so,  at  least,  they  themselves  would  anxiously  persuade 
us ;  and  there  is  no  increase  in  the  comforts  of  life,  as  we  are 
told  on  the  same  authority ;  but  the  driving  whip  is  banished  ; 
forced  labour  is  no  more  ;  and  nature,  restored  to  her  rights, 
convicts  the  past  slavery  of  murderous  oppression,  by  the 
evidence  of  her  multiplying  powers. 

Let  me  not,  however,  be  understood  to  mean  that  the  labours 
of  the  field  in  the  torrid  zone  are  injurious  to  its  natives  when 
moderated  to  that  degree  which  the  climate  fairly  demands. 
There  is  a  point  of  muscular  exertion  there,  as  well  as  here, 
up  to  which  men  may  habitually  work,  not  only  without  pre- 
judice, but  with  positive  benefit  to  health ;  and  the  love  of 
rest,  like  every  other  natural  propensity,  may  every  where  be 
indulged  to  a  pernicious  excess.  All  that  I  would  immedi- 
ately deduce  from  these  remarks  is,  that  immoderate  labour, 
in  that  region  of  the  earth,  is  extremely  noxious  to  the  human 
frame,  as  well  as  pre-eminently  irksome  ;  and  that  repugnance 
to  it  is  a  salutary  instinct,  implanted  in  the  mind  of  man  by 
the  Author  of  our  natures,  for  the  security  of  health  and  life. 

What  degree  of  labour  may  be  sustained  there,  or  in  any 
climate,  without  pernicious  effects,  is  obviously  not  to  be 
ascertained  theoretically  by  any  general  rule.  The  diversities 
of  age  and  sex,  and  strength  of  constitution,  and  of  previous 
habits,  with  their  various  combinations,  and  of  local  circum- 
stances, friendly  or  adverse  to  health  and  strenth,  are  endless  ; 
and  if  a  medium  of  them  all  could  be  found,  experience  would 
still  be  the  only  criterion  to  decide  how  much  of  labour  in 
point  of  intensity  and  duration  may  consist,  under  ordinary 

tn  the  Torrid  Zone.  53 

circumstances,  with  the  physical  well-being  of  a  workman  of 
average  powers.  But  even  the  lessons  of  experience  can 
furnish  no  rule  of  safe  application  to  individuals  whose  ex- 
ertions are  forcibly  constrained.  The  labourer  himself,  indeed, 
may  be  pretty  surely  taught,  by  his  feelings  of  fatigue  and  ex- 
haustion, when  he  has  worked  beyond  the  just  measure  of  his 
strength ;  but  his  employers  or  observers,  can  rarely  know 
with  certainty,  except  from  the  destructive  consequences  of 
excess,  whether  his  exertions  have  been  limited  by  necessity, 
or  by  choice  ;  by  a  just  regard  to  self-preservation,  or  by 
indolent  self-indulgence. 

If  the  latter  proposition  be  true,  the  inhumanity  of  exacting 
labour  from  innocent  men  by  coercive  force,  imposed  for  the 
profit  and  at  the  discretion  of  their  masters,  is  a  plain  corollary 
from  it.  The  im  poser  of  the  toil,  supposing  hirn  even  a  dis- 
interested assessor  of  its  amount,  could  not  be  sure  that  it 
was  not  excessive ;  and  yet  excess  is  likely  to  prove  a  very 
cruel,  though  slow  paced,  species  of  murder. 

I  speak  here  especially,  with  a  view  to  such  present  force 
as  the  labourer  cannot  resist  or  avoid  ;  like  the  cart  whip  in 
the  hand  of  a  driver.  Among  the  gross  and  puerile  sophisms 
to  which  the  apologists  of  West  Indian  slavery  are  obliged 
to  resort,  they  confound  in  their  defences  of  the  driving 
system,  moral  with  physical  coercion ;  and  gravely  observe 
that  the  free  labourer  also,  is  constrained  to  work  for  the  sub- 
sistence of  himself  and  family  :  one  sufficient  answer,  to 
which,  if  such  a  miserable  fallacy  deserves  any  answer  at  all, 
is  that  the  instinct  of  self-preservation  is  too  strong  to  be 
easily  subdued,  either  by  the  love  of  comfort  or  the  fear  of 
want :  though  it  yields  to  present  pain,  or  nearly  impending 
torture.  We  do  not  find,  in  this  industrious  land,  that  our 
agricultural  peasants  work  themselves  to  death  for  wages 
however  high  :  we  hear  often  of  their  distress  for  want  of 
work,  but  never  of  their  perishing  from  its  excess  ;  whereas 
the  fact  that  men  and  women  very  often  sicken  and  die  from 
overwork  on  sugar  plantations,  is  fully  admitted,  and  quite 
beyond    dispute.*      The    merciless    drudgery    which    Major 

*  This  will  be   abundantly  shewn  in  subsequent  chapters ;  but  lest  the 
proposition  should  startle  uninformed  readers  at  the  outset,  T  here  subjoin 

54  Of  Agricultural  Labour 

Moody  calls  the  *'  steady  imlustrt/'  of  the  cane   pieces,  has 
always  thinned  the  black  population  of  our  sugar  colonies,  far 

some  extracts  from  that  veiy  important  work  of  Dr.  Collins,  his  "  Prac- 
"  tical  Rules  for  the  Management  and  Medical  Treatment  of  Negro 
"  Slaves  in  the  Sugar  Colonies."  It  is  a  work,  that  I  have  referred  to  in 
my  former  volume ;  and  shall  often  have  to  cite  in  the  following  sheets.  It 
may  be  proper,  therefore,  to  shew  this  author's  superior  claims  to  at- 
tention ;  and  my  right  to  quote  as  decisive  authority  what  he  states  on 
the  anti-slavery  side.  They  were  noticed  in  the  first  volume  of  this  work  ; 
but  as  that  has  long  been  out  of  print,  it  may  be  useful  to  repeat  them 

Dr.  Collins  was  a  physician,  and  planter,  of  great  eminence  and  ex- 
perience, who  had  resided  great  part  of  his  life  in  the  West  Indies,  and  was 
proprietor  of  valuable  sugar  estates  in  St.  Vincent's,  which  he  sold  after 
retiring  to  this  country.  He  wrote  a  pamphlet  in  defence  of  the  slave 
trade ;  and  to  the  last  sided  with  its  apologists  ;  as  appears  even  from  the 
work  I  quote.  But  when  Mr.  Wilberforce's  efforts  for  the  abolition 
seemed  to  be  finally  frustrated,  Dr.  Collins  compiled  and  published  this 
work  with  the  humane  intention  of  pointing  out  to  his  brother  planters 
such  abuses  in  the  treatment  of  their  slaves  injurious  to  health  and  life, 
as  he  deemed  not  essential  to  their  system,  and  therefore  hoped  they 
might  be  induced  to  reform. 

Hence  and  certainly  not  from  any  desire  on  his  part  to  cast  odium  on 
a  system  which  he  had  long  administered,  and  wished  to  uphold,  the  im- 
portant testimony  he  aifords  on  the  anti-slavery  side.  He  could  not  sup- 
press those  facts  of  the  case  on  which  it  was  his  object  to  advise;  but  he 
notices  them  as  a  friend,  not  an  enemy,  of  the  general  system ;  and  always 
with  the  utmost  tenderness  and  extenuation;  at  least,  such  is  his  usual 
style  when  the  abuse  he  is  pointing  out  is  one  of  a  general  kind. 

From  these  circumstances  I  presume  it  has  happened,  that  Dr.  Collins, 
though  often  quoted  against  the  planters,  has  hitherto  riot  been  treated  by 
them  like  most  other  writers  on  whose  testimony  their  practice  has  been 
arrai'^ned.  I  am  not  aware,  at  least,  that  he  has  been  traduced  and  vili- 
fied or  that  his  authority  ever  has  been  questioned  by  any  of  their  hired 
writers  or  partizans  :  some  of  them  have  expressly  admitted  it;  and  Mr. 
Hibbert  the  agent  for  Jamaica,  had  the  liberality  and  humanity  to  pub- 
lish a  new  edition  of  the  work ;  the  same  from  which  I  now  transcribe. 

There  are  so  very  many  passages  in  this  work  that  shew  the  truth  of  the 
shocking  proposition  to  which  this  note  is  annexed,  that  I  find  selection 
rather  difficult.  His  strongest  statements  as  to  the  fatal  effects  of  forced 
labour  refer  to  the  treatment  of  newly  imported  Africans,  which  may  be 
thought  not  strictly  relevant  to  the  existing  case ;  but  for  my  present  pur- 
pose they  are  emphatically  so ;  as  the  effects  of  the  first  imposition  of 
forced  labour,  on  men  who  had  been  previously  governed  by  those  strong 
native  propensities  described  by  Major  Moody,  will  shew  most  clearly  and 

in  the  Torrid  Zone.  55 

more  than  all  other  modes  of  oppression,  and  all  the  diseases 

fairly,  how  it  operates  on  the  the  human  frame ;  and  if  the  driving  whip 
could  controul  at  once  those,  powerful  propensities,  notwithstanding  their 
habitual  indulgence,  and  the  resistance  of  oppressed  nature  united,  its  power 
will  not  be  doubted  to  be  an  over-match  for  the  latter  alone. 

"  Experience,"  says  Dr.  Collins,  "  has  demonstrated  that  a  great  number 
"  of  the  negroes  exported  from  the  coast  of  Africa  to  the  West  Indies,  die 
"  within  three  or  four  years  after  their  arrival  there.  I  believe  that  the 
"  most  moderate  calculation  cannot  rate  the  loss  at  less  than  one  fourth  on 
"  an  average.  In  certain  cases  it  may  not,  perhaps,  be  so  great ;  but  in 
"  others  it  is  infinitely  greater ;  whole  lots  of  ten  or  twenty  having  very 
"  few  survivors  at  the  end  of  that  time,"  (p.  51).  After  noticing  some  me- 
dical causes  of  this  shocking  mortality,  he  adds,  "  Labour  is  another,  and 
"  the  most  frequent  cause  of  the  mortality  of  new  negroes ;  some  of  whom 
"  have  never  experienced  any  considerable  portion  of  it  in  their  own 
"  country;  and  none  in  the  manner  in  which  they  are  obliged  to  work  in 
"  ours.  The  inuring  them  gradually  to  labour,  so  that  they  may  undergo 
"  it  in  continuation,  is  the  primary  object,  and  greatest  difficulty,  in  their 
"  seasoning ;  for  to  press  for  sudden  and  unremitted  exertion,  is  to  kill 
"  them;  which  many  unfortunately  do  every  year  "  (p.  60). 

"  Your  new  subjects,"  he  says  in  another  place,  "  will  not  have  been 
"  long  in  the  field,  before  they  will  exhibit  a  very  different  appearance  from 
"  that  which  they  had  before  they  went  there.  If  they  have  made  any  ex- 
"  traordinary  efforts,  as  many  of  them  will  do  from  the  beginning;  they 
*'  will  have  grown  much  thinner.  This  is  the  natural  consequence  of  exer- 
"  tion  to  which  they  have  not  been  accustomed,  and  the  consequent  waste 
"  by  perspiration  ;  and  need  not  alarm  you,  if  they  are  otherwise  well  and 
"  in  spirits  ;  but  if  they  are  languid  and  dispirited,  you  must  indulge  them 
"  either  with  a  total  remission  of  labour,  or  with  such  an  abatement  of  it 
"  as  circumstances  may  require,"  (p.  78).  "  In  the  first  year  they  get  rid 
"  of  the  effects  of  the  passage  and  the  change  of  situation ;  but  the  result  of 
"  continued  and  hard  labour  is  most  felt  after  a  longer  interval,  and  your  eye 
"  must  be  diligently  directed  to  them  for  some  years,"  (p.  81,  82). 

It  is  not,  however,  among  the  neiv  negroes  alone  that  the  destructive  ef- 
fects of  forced  labour  are  noticed  by  Dr.  Collins.  His  chapter  on  labour 
shews  throughout  that  this  is,  in  truth,  the  grand  source,  not  only  of  the 
cruel  discipline  which  the  slaves  of  the  plantations  are  afflicted  with,  but 
of  the  diseases  which  conduct  them  to  the  hospital  and  the  grave.  He 
ascribes  much  of  the  mischief,  indeed,  to  the  indiscriminate  manner  in 
which  the  force  is  applied.  "  The  exertions  required  of  them  should  be 
"  proportioned  to  their  faculties,  which  vary  greatly  in  different  subjects, 
"  some  being  capable  of  doing  a  great  deal  more  than  others.  This  seems 
"  not  to  have  been  sufficiently  attended  to  in  the  distribution  of  labour,  as 
"  it  is  usual  to  divide  the  negroes  of  an  estate  more  according  to  their  ages 
"  than  their  abilities  ;  power  being  inferred  from  age.     The  consequence 

56  Oj' the  probable  Excess 

of  the  climate,  and  all  the  vices  adverse  to  longevity  and  pro- 
pagation, taken  together. 

"  of  which  is  either  that  the  weaker  negroes  must  retard  the  stronger  ones ; 
"  or  your  drivers,  insensible  of  the  cause  of  this  backwardness,  or  not  weigh- 
"  ing  it  properly,  will  incessantly  urge  them,  either  with  stripes  or  threats, 
"  to  keep  up  with  the  others ;  bi/  which  means  they  are  overwrought  and 
"  compelled  to  resort  to  the  sick-house  J"  (p.  175,  6). 

If  the  reader  is  ill-informed  enough  to  suppose  that  the  driving  method 
of  coercion  is  not  still  applied  in  the  same  indiscriminate  way,  or  is  not 
still  copiously  destructive  of  health  and  life,  I  shall  in  the  proper  place  fully 
prove  to  him  the  contrary ;  but  I  need  offer  no  further  evidence  here,  to 
shew  that,  though  men  do  not  work  themselves  to  death  by  moral  constraint 
in  this  country,  they  are  to  use  Dr.  Collins's  term  "  overwrought,'^  and  to  a 
deathful  excess,  by  physical  force  in  the  colonies. 

of  forced  Labour  in  l/ie  Sugar  Colonies.  57 



Section  I. — Natural  Tendencies  of ' the  System. 

Though  the  proper  medium  between  an  indolent  deficiency, 
and  a  pernicious  excess  of  exertion,  cannot  be  certainly  ascer- 
tained by  any  general  rule,  applicable  to  all  cases  and  circum- 
stances ;  yet  where  the  labourers  are  free,  experience  suppUes 
a  criterion  accurate  enough  for  ordinary  use.  When  wages 
are  sufficiently  high,  and  still  more  when  there  is  a  competi- 
tion for  employment,  it  will  be  known  how  much  labourers 
can  commonly  do,  consistently  with  self-preservation  and 
health,  by  what  they  actually  perform.  Hence  a  custo- 
mary standard  has  arisen  between  the  employers  and  the  em- 
ployed. The  English  farmer  knows  by  usage,  and  so  does 
the  labourer  too,  what  is  a  fair  days'  work  at  the  different 
seasons  of  the  year :  the  one  will  not  be  content  with  less,  and 
the  other  will  yield  no  more.  A  labourer  may  be  too  feeble 
from  age  or  constitution  to  work  up  to  the  established  stand- 
ard ;  but  then  he  must  be  content  to  receive  less  than  ordi- 
nary pay. 

Slavery,  and  its  forced  labour,  preclude  that  fair  and  safe 
adjustment.  There  may  be  a  customary  quantum  of  work  ; 
but  as  the  usage  has  grown  from  the  compulsion  of  the  mas- 
ters, not  the  volition  of  the  slaves,  we  cannot  infer  from  the 
generality  of  its  performance,  that  it  can  be  easily  or  innox- 

58  Of  the  probable  Excess 

iously  endured.  If  there  are  any  securities  for  its  moderation, 
they  must  be  found  in  the  motives  of  the  master,  not  the  self- 
conservatory  feelings  of  the  enslaved  labourers  themselves ; 
yet  it  is  by  the  latter  alone,  that  the  capacity  for  exertion 
can  be  measured,  without  danger  of  fatal  mistakes. 

Unhappily,  the  personal  experience,  and  physical  sympa- 
thies of  West  Indian  masters,  can  in  this  case  furnish  no 
criterion  vi^hatever.  Many  of  our  English  farmers  have  them- 
selves held  the  plough,  and  thrown  the  flail ;  they  can 
judge,  therefore,  in  a  great  degree  of  the  powers,  and  the 
feelings  of  the  labourers,  from  their  own;  but  as  white  men 
are  strangers  to  the  toils  of  the  field  in  the  West  Indies,  they 
can  form  no  judgment  from  their  own  sensations,  of  what 
their  negro  slaves  can,  without  much  suffering,  and  abrevia- 
tion  of  their  lives  endure.  They  know  only,  that  the  negro 
has  a  very  different  constitution  from  their  own;  and  can  sus- 
tain a  degree  of  exertion  under  the  solar  blaze,  which  to 
themselves  would  be  intolerable,  and  speedily  destructive; 
and  this  naturally  leads,  especially  under  the  suggestions  of 
avarice,  to  much  exaggeration.  The  potential  range  of  capa- 
cities far  surpassing  our  own,  is  likely  to  be  magnified  by 
the  imagination,  even  without  the  bias  of  self-interest.  Men 
of  gigantic  stature,  were  anciently  supposed  able  to  put 
armies  to  the  rout;  and  to  perform  those  wonders  of  muscular 
strength,  which  are  ascribed  to  Hercules,  and  other  fabulous 
heroes  of  antiquity.  The  learned,  in  an  illiterate  age,  were 
as  liaturally  thought  to  be  endued  with  preternatural  powers. 
So,  also,  when  the  hardy  strong-built  negro  was  first  brought 
from  Africa  to  the  new  world,  his  masters,  from  the  same 
propensity,  exaggerated  in  their  ideas  his  powers  of  enduring- 
labour,  beyond  all  rational  bounds.  Even  Las  Casas  seems 
not  to  have  apprehended,  that  avarice  might  over-tax  the 
strength  of  this  new  drudge,  as  it  had  fatally  done  that  of  the 
less  vigorous  Indian.  Experience,  indeed,  progressively  proved 
the  mistake  ;  but  under  a  concurrence  of  other  circumstances 
adverse  to  health  and  life  ;  and  till  its  awful  lessons  were  given 
in  the  cane-pieces,  as  well  as  the  mines,  they  did  not  so  clearly 
shew,  that  the  main  cause  of  mortality  was  excessive  labour 
alone.  Nor  were  the  French,  English,  and  Dutch  settlers, 
among  whom,  that  grand  curse  of  Africa,  sugar  planting  in 

of  forced  Labour  in  the  Sugar  Colonies.  59 

the  West  Indies,  originated,  easily  convinced  of  an  error,  by 
which  their  immediate  gains  were  promoted ;  and  the  ill  effects 
of  which  their  slave  trade  promptly  repaired.  The  excessive 
estimates  of  the  masters,  therefore,  as  to  the  poor  negro's 
capacity  for  labour,  were  left  to  be  corrected  in  the  sugar 
colonies,  as  in  Spanish  America,  by  long  continued  fearful 
experiment  alone.  The  limits  of  his  possible  endurance,  were 
found  only  by  forcing  him  to  that  which  he  could  not  endure ; 
as  we  ascertain  the  utmost  capacity  of  a  vessel,  by  filling  it 
till  it  overflows. 

Though  every  planter  was  left  to  assess  the  labour  on  his 
own  estate  at  his  discretion,  the  effect  of  its  assessment  by 
all,  on  the  same  general  principle  of  taking  the  utmost  that 
compulsion  could  obtain,  was  such  an  uniformity  of  practice 
upon  almost  every  estate,  and  in  every  sugar  colony,  as  upon 
any  other  premises,  it  would  be  very  hard  to  account  for.  If 
justice,  or  humanity,  or  policy,  or  a  provident  regard  to  future 
and  permanent  interests,  had  adjusted  the  limits  of  exaction, 
of  course  the  practice  of  forced  labour  would  have  varied  so 
greatly  in  different  places,  and  at  different  periods,  as  not  to 
be  reducible  to  any  general  customary  standard. 

But  a  customary  standard  there  is ;  and  one  of  singular 
uniformity  in  all  the  sugar  colonies,  British  or  foreign;  as 
clearly  appears  in  that  which  best  admits  of  mensuration,  the 
time  employed  in  work.  Nor  has  there  been  any  variation  in 
it,  as  I  shall  shew,  in  the  British  West  Indies,  at  least,  since 
the  first  public  investigations  of  the  subject,  now  near  forty 
years  ago.  Whether  that  standard  is  a  moderate  and  humane,  or 
an  oppressive  and  destructive  one,  is  the  most  momentous 
question  at  issue  between  the  friends,  and  the  opponents  of  the 
system  ;  and  its  close  examination  upon  evidence,  will  be  the 
chief  business  of  the  following  sheets. 

The  distance  between  the  conflicting  general  statements  on 
this  point,  is  of  no  ordinary  width.  —  It  is  not  a  mere  diffe- 
rence of  degrees  ;  but  extends  to  the  most  opposite  extremes. 
While  it  is  maintained  on  the  one  side,  that  the  slaves  on 
sugar  estates  are  grievously  distressed,  worked  down,  and 
destroyed  by  excessive  and  incessant  labour,  it  is  stoutly 
alleged  on  the  other,  that  their  work  is  mere  pastime ;  and 
that  they  enjoy  a  superabundant  share  of  leisure,  recreation. 

60  Of  the  probable  Excess 

and  repose:  representations  of  which,  sufficient  specimens  have 
been  given  in  a  former  chapter. 

Let  us  first  enquire,  then,  which  of  these  statements  is  the 
more  likely,  from  the  nature  of  the  case,  to  be  true ;  for  in  every 
question  that  involves  disputed  facts,  it  is  the  best  preparative 
for  rightly  weighing  the  evidence,  to  determine  first  on  ad- 
mitted premises,  if  we  can,  on  which  side  probability  lies. 

If  the  controversy  turned  merely  on  the  actual  quantum  of 
work  in  point  oi  time,  such  a  preliminary  enquiry  might  well  be 
spared  ;  for  this  I  shall  be  able  to  establish  by  direct  and  irre- 
fragable proofs  to  be  truly  enormous;  and  antecedently  to  ex- 
perience, I  should  have  thought  that  fact  enough  for  my 
purpose;  but  the  modes  of  labour,  and  most  of  the  attendant 
circumstances,  being  little  known,  and  ill  conceived  in  Europe, 
the  case  is  open  in  those  respects  to  fallacious  representations, 
of  which  the  colonial  apologists  have  very  artfully  and  amply 
availed  themselves  ;  and  I  have  lived  to  see  how  little  impres- 
sion is  made  in  this  case  by  the  best  authenticated  and  most 
undoubted  facts,  though  demonstrative  of  gross  oppression, 
upon  minds  biassed  by  self-interest,  or  preoccupied  by  favorable 
or  extenuatory  views  of  the  colonial  system,  derived  from  the 
sources  of  prejudice  to  which  I  have  before  adverted. 

Let  me  not,  then,  be  thought  cither  diffident  of  the  posi- 
tive proofs  I  have  to  adduce,  or  regardless  of  the  reader's  time, 
if  I  endeavour  to  dislodge  these  prepossessions  in  the  present 
instance,  by  shewing  that  the  general  excess  of  forced  labor 
is  a  highly  probable  imputation,  and  the  bold  pretences  of 
liberal  forbearance  in  that  respect,  utterly  incredible,  from  the 
very  nature  of  the  case. 

To  avoid  extreme  terms,  and  put  this  preliminary  question 
in  the  simplest  form,  which  is  the  more  likely,  that  the  labour 
generally  exacted  by  sugar  planters  from  their  predial  slaves, 
should  fall  short  of,  or  that  it  should  exceed,  that  measure  of 
exertion,  which  the  latter,  consistently  with  their  well-being, 
can  yield. 

That  the  master's  immediate  self-interest,  is  more  directly 
and  apparently  opposed  to  any  error  on  the  lenient,  than  on 
the  oppressive  side,  is  sufficiently  plain.  The  planter's  object 
is  to  extract  wealth  from  the  soil  by  the  labour  of  his  slaves ; 
and  his  profits,  ceteris  paribus,  must  be  directly  proportionate 

of  forced  Labour  in  the  Sugar  Colonies.  61 

to  the  quantity  of  work  they  perform.  To  require  less,  there- 
fore, than  they  can  yield,  would  be  a  present  sacrifice  of  the 
potential  gain ;  and  it  is  not  easy  to  believe  that  such  a  sacri- 
fice has  been  usually  and  generally  made. 

If  a  farmer,  or  manufacturer,  weie  to  say  that  he  willingly 
and  habitually  remits  to  his  workmen  a  considerable  portion 
in  point  of  time,  or  exertion,  of  the  work  he  is  entitled  lawfully 
to  demand  from  them,  we  should  distrust  his  sincerity  ;  and  the 
assertion  would  be  thought  the  more  incredible,  the  greater  the 
number  of  his  workmen  was  known  to  be,  and  the  larger  the 
expence  of  labour,  in  proportion  to  the  gross  returns  of  the 
manufactory,  or  farm.  But  the  sugar  planter,  who  is  both  a 
farmer  and  manufacturer,  who  constantly  employs  a  hundred 
or  two  hundred  slaves,  or  more,  and  whose  expences  in 
acquiring  and  sustaining  them,  bear  a  very  large  proportion  to 
the  value  of  his  produce,  tells  us  that  he  remits  much  of  the 
labour,  which  he  might  fairly  exact  from  them ;  and  expects 
to  be  believed  ! 

If  the  English  manufacturer  were,  by  patent  or  otherwise, 
the  sole  maker  and  vendor  of  the  article  he  deals  in,  such  a 
statement  from  him,  though  strange,  might  not  be  quite  in- 
credible ;  for  he  might,  possibly,  indulge  himself  in  a  lavish 
liberality  without  any  ruinous  effects  ;  raising  the  price  of  his 
article  so  as  to  make  up  for  the  value  of  the  labour  wastefully 
remitted  and  lost.  But  if  there  were,  and  had  long  been,  a 
multitude  of  competitors  in  the  same  manufacture,  for  the 
same  markets,  and  if  competition  had  already  produced  the 
usual  effect  of  reducing  the  returns  of  the  business  in  general 
to  the  lowest  average  of  profit  for  which  it  could  be  carried 
on,  we  should  see  that  the  statement  involved  a  solecism  in 
political  economy,  and  could  not  possibly  be  true.  His  less 
liberal  rivals  must  long  since  have  driven  him  from  the  mar- 
kets, and  obliged  him  to  desist. 

If  to  avoid  this  obvious  objection,  the  manufacturer  should 
add  that  all  his  brother  manufacturers,  multitudinous  thouoh 
they  were,  practised  the  same  liberality,  the  moral  improba- 
bility would  increase,  as  the  commercial  paradox  was  soft- 
ened ;  and  the  latter,  after  all,  would  not  be  solved,  unless  he 
could  extend  the  assertion  to  all  past  as  well  as  present,  and 
to  foreign  as  well  as  British,  competitors.     It  must  always  and 

62  Of  the  probable  Excess 

every  where,  have  been  the  strange  rule,  in  this  branch  of  ma- 
nufacture, to  accept  fewer  hours,  or  days  of  labour,  than  the 
workmen  had  bargained  and  been  paid  for ;  because  the  eco- 
nomy of  predecessors  would  otherwise  have  so  far  reduced 
the  price  of  the  fabric,  as  to  have  left  no  room  for  such  gene- 
rosity in  the  existing  class.  The  market  they  had  succeeded 
to  could  not  have  afforded  such  a  sacrifice. 

To  the  case  of  our  planters,  the  same  principles  clearly  and 
strongly  apply ;  for  the  difference  made  by  slavery  is  in  this 
respect  a  difference  only  in  form  ;  though  in  other  views  it 
highly  enhances  the  improbability  of  what  they  allege.  If 
we  substitute  for  the  manufacturer's  right  by  contract  to  a 
given  portion  of  labour,  the  planters'  power  and  legal  right  to 
exact  from  the  slaves  all  the  labour  they  can  possibly  be  com- 
pelled to  yield,  the  two  cases  will  be  found  to  be  the  same ; 
and  it  will  be  as  difficult,  upon  the  most  certain  principles  of 
political  economy,  to  believe  that  any  needless  abatement  is 
generally  made  in  the  latter  case  to  the  slaves,  as  that  in  the 
oldest  and  best  contested  branches  of  manufacture  at  Bir- 
mingham, or  Manchester,  the  masters  having  a  right  by  con- 
tract to  six  days'  labour  in  the  week,  and  ten  hours  in  each 
day,  are  content  with  five  and  nine ;  or  pay  for  piece-work 
twenty  per  cent,  more  than  the  workmen  have  contracted  to 

Though  our  planters  allege  to  the  people  of  England,  that 
the  asserted  liberality  is  general,  or  has  few  exceptions  in  the 
British  West  Indies,  I  do  not  recollect  that  any  of  them 
allow,  and  some  of  them  strongly  deny,  the  same  liberality  to 
their  competitors  in  the  foreign  colonies  :  yet  upon  indisput- 
able principles,  applied  as  we  have  seen,  by  Major  Moody  to 
this  identical  case,*  the  more  rigid  economies  of  those  foreign 
competitors,  must  have  imposed  on  the  British  planter,  a  ne- 
cessity of  departing  from  it,  and  exacting  a  full  measure  of 
work  from  their  slaves,  in  order  that  they  might  meet  their 
rivals  on  equal  terms  in  the  foreign  European  markets. 

The  same,  though  not  so  obviously,  must  have  been  the 
effect  of  a  full  or  extreme  exaction  of  work  by  the  predeces- 
sors of  our  present  planters  in  the  English  colonies,  and  those 

*  See  supra,  p.  50. 

of  forced  Labour  in  the  Sugar  Colonies.  63 

from  whom  they  have  bought  their  estates ;  *'  not  so  obvi- 
ously," only  because  it  is  not  sufficiently  known  and  consi- 
dered, that  sugar  plantations  themselves  are  commercial  com- 
modities, which  pass  with  great  frequency  from  hand  to  hand, 
at  prices  governed  by  the  profits  they  have  been  recently 
known  to  yield.  Consequently  the  thrift  of  the  sellers,  in 
pushing  the  faculties  of  the  slaves  to  the  utmost,  must  im- 
pose an  economical  necessity  on  the  buyers,  of  practising  a 
like  frugality.  The  gang  that  produced  a  hundred  hogs- 
heads of  sugar,  by  whatever  severity  of  labour,  must  be  made 
to  produce  as  much  still  ;  or  the  investment,  though  made  at 
a  fair  price,  will  turn  to  a  loss.  Now,  that  the  liberality  in 
question  did  not  heretofore  exist,  and  that  on  the  contrary  an 
undue  exaction  of  labour  prevailed  in  our  colonies,  I  have 
shewn  to  be  no  longer  in  dispute. 

I  shall  demonstrate,  however,  to  my  readers  hereafter  by 
direct  evidence,  that  if  labour  was  excessive,  twenty  or  even 
forty  years  ago,  it  is  so  still.  I  shall  shew  that  in  this 
respect  at  least,  there  is  no  general  change  for  the  better.* 
But  I  am  reasoning  now  a  priori,  on   premises  which  my  an- 

*  Mr.  Barclay,  in  his  enumeration  of  improvements,  and  contrast  of  the 
past  with  the  present,  has  alleged  no  such  change. 

Mr.  Dwarris,  in  a  pamphlet  published  by  him,  is  one  of  the  most  strenu- 
ous assertors  of  recent  ameliorations  in  the  treatment  of  the  slaves  in  the 
sugar  colonies ;  and  he  undertakes,  in  answer  to  a  supposed  question,  to 
specify  in  what  they  consist ;  but  this  Jamaica  planter  (for  such  I  under- 
stand he  is,  though  a  commissioner  lately  delegated  by  government  to  en- 
quire into  subjects  like  these)  does  not  insert  in  his  catalogue  any  mitiga- 
tions of  labour  ;  though  he  looks  back  over  a  period  of  thirty  years,  to  find 
other  changes  for  his  purpose.  (The  West  Indian  question  by  Mr.  Dwarris, 
p.  12  and  14). 

As  this  gentleman  does  me  the  honour  to  refer  to  accountslong  since  given 
by  me ;  and  asks  triumphantly,  "  does  my  reasonable  man  believe  the  pre- 
"  sent  condition  of  the  islands  to  resemble  the  pictures  there  drawn,  in  any 
"  the  slightest  degree  ?"  I  answer,  that  the  likeness  in  every  important 
feature  is  as  correct  as  ever ;  and  that  it  was  denied  as  confidently  by  his 
brother  planters,  when  first  taken,  and  in  reference  to  the  very  time  when 
the  living  subject  was  under  my  eyes.  I  answer  further,  that  in  many 
features  of  the  system  as  now  delineated  by  himself,  I  find  the  very  same 
characteristic  deformities,  though  much  softened  in  the  colouring  by  a  com- 
plimentary artist ;  and  lastly,  that  many  connoisseurs,  whose  acquaintance 
with  the  subject  is  as  recent  as  his  own,  and  much  more  familiar,  find 
none  of  the  dissimilitude  he  complains  of. 

64  Of  the  probable  Excess 

tagonists  cannot  dispute.  Let  them  reconcile  them,  how  they 
can,  with  the  principles  I  have  adduced,  and  with  credibility, 
not  merely  the  disuse  of  such  inordinate  exactions  of  labour 
as  were  found  destructive  to  the  master's  property  in  his 
slaves ;  but  a  gratuitous  remission  of  his  right  to  exact  as 
much  work  as  he  thinks  compatible  with  their  well-being ; 
and  a  degree  of  liberality  and  self-denial  on  his  part,  that  is 
asserted  to  leave  them  a  superfluous  portion  of  time,  for  re- 
creation, and  the  improvement  of  their  own  condition. 

To  estimate  better  the  credit  due  to  such  assertions,  let  us 
take  a  nearer  view  of  that  seductive  immediate  interest  which 
a  planter  has  in  extending,  or  at  least  not  retrenching,  the  la- 
bours of  his  slaves. 

His  profits,  as  I  before  remarked,  must  be  in  proportion 
to  the  work  they  perform.  It  may  be  otherwise  with  the  em- 
ployer of  free  labourers  ;  for  their  wages  may  advance  or  de- 
cline with  the  measure  of  their  exertions  ;  but  the  only  wages 
given  by  the  masters  of  slaves,  are  food,  and  other  articles  ne- 
cessary for  their  support;  the  amount  of  which  does  not  depend 
on  the  quantum  or  value  of  the  work,  but  on  their  wants 
alone.  It  is  admitted  indeed,  nay  often  brought  forward  in 
argument  by  the  planters,  that  when  they  themselves  are  dis- 
tressed, their  slaves  are  very  badly  sustained ;  but  it  has 
never  to  my  knowledge  been  pretended,  that  their  ordinary 
allowances  are  raised,  when  the  crops  are  either  in  quantity 
or  value  increased. 

Neither  is  that  far  larger  cost  of  slave  labour,  the  price 
paid  for  the  power  of  enforcing  it ;  in  other  words,  the  interest 
on  the  capital  invested  in  the  purchase  of  the  slaves,  les- 
sened by  any  diminution  of  the  work.  It  may  be  hereafter 
enhanced  indeed,  I  admit,  by  the  effects  of  any  such  excess  as 
shortens  the  lives  of  the  workmen;  and  this  may  be  supposed 
to  form  a  motive  of  forbearance,  the  value  of  which  I  shall  soon 
proceed  to  examine ;  but  we  are  now  considering  the  force  of 
the  motive  of  a  certain  and  immediate  self-interest,  in  order 
to  poise  it  fairly  afterwards,  against  that  of  a  provident  re- 
gard to  distant  and  doubtful  consequences. 

That  almost  all  the  other  ordinary  charges  of  this  farmer 
and  manufacturer,  such  as  interest  on  the  value  of  the  land, 
the  works  and  buildings,  salaries  of  managers,  &c.  would  not  be 

of  forced  Labour  in  the  Sugar  Colonies.  65 

lessened  by  any  reduction  of  the  quantity  of  work  exacted  from 
a  given  number  of  slaves,  is  sufficiently  obvious.  Therefore 
as  the  difference  between  the  collective  amount  of  all  charges, 
and  the  value  of  the  gross  produce,  constitutes  the  planter's 
profit;  and  as  the  quantity  of  the  produce  ceteris  paribus, 
must  be  in  proportion  to  the  labour  obtained,  the  present  gain 
from  any  potential  augmentation  of  labour,  is  manifestly  equal 
to  the  entire  value  of  the  additional  produce  raised  by  it.  It 
is  so  much  added,  not  merely  to  the  gross,  but  to  the  clear 
nett  returns,  of  the  estate. 

To  make  this  clearer,  let  it  be  supposed  that  from  an 
estate  which  has  cost,  including  the  works,  buildings,  slaves 
and  stock,  20,000/.,  a  hundred  hogsheads  of  sugar  are  an- 
nually produced,  by  a  degree  of  labour  not  amounting  to 
excess ;  and  that  they  yield,  on  the  balance  of  the  consignee's 
accounts,  20/.  per  hogshead,  or  2,000/.  in  all,  which  is  10/.  per 
cent,  on  the  capital  employed,  and  that  the  planter's  annual 
expenditure  is  1,200/.,  or  6/.  per  cent,  so  as  to  leave  him  a 
profit  of  4/.  per  cent,  or  800/.  as  a  clear  return  on  his  ca- 

It  is  manifest,  that  if,  by  encreasing  the  labour  of  the  slaves, 
the  estate  can  be  made  to  produce  one  fourth  more,  or  1 25 
hogsheads,  the  augmentation  of  the  balance  of  nett  proceeds 
in  the  consignee's  accounts,  will  be  500/.,  making  2,500/.  in 
all,  or  12a  per  cent,  on  the  capital,  liable  only  to  the  same 
deduction  of  1,200/.  for  annual  expenditure,  and  leaving  the 
planter  1,300/.,  being  a  clear  return  of  6^  instead  of  4  per 
cent.  The  increment  of  labour,  and  of  gross  value,  is  but 
one  fourth,  while  that  of  the  planter's  profit  is  five-eighths,  of 
the  former  amount ;  and  the  temptation  to  excess,  is  the 
power  of  raising  his  clear  income  from  800/.  to  1,300/.  per 

I  am  far  from  meaning  to  convey  the  idea  that  an  aug- 

*  Though  these  hypothetical  data  may  be  wide  of  the  truth  without 
affecting  the  argument,  most  of  tliem  were  stated,  on  high  colonial  au- 
thority to  be  the  actual  averages  of  capital,  charges  and  returns  in  ordinary 
times. — See  the  Report  of  the  Committee  of  the  House  of  Commons  on  the 
Commercial  state  of  the  West  Indies,  1807. 

VOL.  II.  V 

66  Of'  the  probable  Excess 

mentation  of  labour  by  one  fourth  part,  is  now  within  the 
power  of  the  planters.  It  has  long  since  ceased  to  be  pos- 
sible to  increase  its  ordinary  quantum  in  any  very  material 
degree  ;  as  I  shall  ere  long,  I  trust,  fully  satisfy  my  readers. 
But  I  am  reasoning  here,  against  those  who  hold  the  con- 
trary, affirming,  that  the  slaves  still  have  much  time  and 
potential  exertion  to  spare. 

Let  us,  however,  apply  the  same  calculations,  on  the  same 
data,  to  the  case  of  a  planter,  who,  thinking  the  ordinary 
standard  of  labour  excessive,  should  lessen  it  by  one-fourth 
part ;  throwing  out  so  much  of  the  cane  land,  before  under 
the  hoe,  as  would  reduce  his  average  crop  from  100  hogs- 
heads to  75.  His  nett  proceeds  would  then  be  reduced  to 
1500/.,  giving  a  surplus  of  no  more  than  300/.  beyond  his 
annual  expenditure,  or  a  return  of  only  1 1  per  cent,  on  his 

I  am  not  unaware  of  what  an  enemy  to  reformation  may 
be  here  disposed  to  remark.  Upon  these  premises,  he  may 
say,  the  planter  cannot  materially  reduce  the  labour  of  his 
slaves  without  ruinous  consequences,  unless  they  are  indemni- 
fied by  the  public.  But  neither  can  they,  nor  do  they,  proceed 
in  their  present  course,  without  meeting  those  consequences  as 
certainly  and  almost  as  generally,  though  by  other  and  guilty 
means;  and  perhaps  by  a  slower  and  intermitting  process. 
Ruin,  as  I  have  more  than  once  before  publicly  remarked  and 
proved,  is  the  natural  lot  of  those  whose  entire  capital  is  in- 
vested in  sugar  estates,  and  whose  solvency  depends  on  their 
returns.  There  are  individual  exceptions ;  and  pretty  numer- 
ous periodical  ones  in  particular  colonies,  from  temporary 
causes  ;  but  such  is  the  ordinary  case;  and  I  could  name 
islands  in  which,  at  the  present  moment,  ruin  is  so  universal, 
that  it  is  difficult  to  name  an  estate  (in  a  certain  island  I  am 
credibly  informed  not  one  is  to  be  found)  that  is  not  in  the 
possession  of  creditors,  or  receivers  appointed  for  their  use. 

Nor  was  the  case,  in  a  general  view,  ever  materially  differ- 
ent. If  any  man  doubt  it,  let  him  examine  the  colonial 
authorities  referred  to  in  the  appendix  to  my  former  volume. 
Let  him  read,  for  instance,  the  reports  and  petitions  of  the 
Jamaica  Assembly,  there  extracted,  embracing  a  period  of  near 

of  forced  Labour  in  the  Sugar  Colonies.  67 

50  years,  from  1772  to  1811.  What  stronger  pictures  of 
comprehensive  and  perennial  ruin  than  they  contain  can  be 
imagined  !  Reasonably  did  the  honourable  assembly  say  in 
one  of  them,  that  "  a  faithful  detail  would  have  the  appearance 
"  of  a  frightful  caricature." 

If  the  general  ruin  of  the  sugar  planters  can  fairly  be 
alleged  to  form  a  claim  on  the  mother  country  for  indemnity, 
the  claim  is  already  irresistibly  strong  ;  and  if  the  evil  being 
imputable  to  her,  is  a  necessary  concurrent  ground,  we  cannot 
deny  its  existence.  More  justly  might  she  be' charged  with 
compensation  for  having  so  long  tolerated  and  maintained 
an  iniquitous  and  ruinous  system,  than  for  attempting  to  re- 
form it.  Besides,  are  not  the  people  of  this  country  already 
paying  the  smart  money  with  a  lavish  hand  ?  What  else  is 
the  high  price  extorted  from  them  as  consumers  of  sugar,  for 
the  benefit  of  the  planters,  and  through  their  parliamentary 
influence  alone,  by  a  barefaced  monopoly,  after  all  their 
former  pretences  of  reciprocity  have  ceased  ?  But  I  have 
inadvertently  broken  in  upon  a  subject  that  more  properly 
belongs  to  a  future  division  of  my  work  ;  my  present  business 
is  with  the  causes  and  virulence  of  the  disease  ;  not  with  the 
means,  or  the  price  of  its  cure. 

If  these  views  of  the  subject  do  not  make  it,  in  the  highest 
degree,  probable  to  my  readers,  that  the  ordinary  exaction  of 
forced  labour  is  not  abstemious,  but  excessive;  it  must  be 
because,  perhaps,  they  look  to  the  master's  permanent  in- 
terests, in  the  health  and  longevity  of  his  slaves,  and  in  the 
maintaining  of  their  numbers  by  native  increase,  as  a  counter- 
poise to  the  present  temptation ;  or  else  because,  perhaps, 
they  rely  upon  his  humanity. 

As  to  the  favourable  presumption  deduced  from  the  per- 
manent interests  of  the  master,  it  is  a  consideration  which 
the  apologists  of  slavery  have  been  in  the  constant  habit  of 
adducing,  and  relying  on  for  near  forty  years ;  though  the 
argument  has  a  hundred  times  been  answered,  by  irresistible 
appeals  both  to  reason  and  experience.  Never  was  it  more 
speciously  advanced,  or  more  confidently  insisted  upon,  than 
during  the  twenty  years  of  controversy  on  the  slave  trade ; 
a  period  now  abandoned  to  us,  as  one  of  indefensible  rigour 

F   2 

68  Of  the  probable  Excess 

and  neglect ;  and  when  a  provident  attention   to  the   pre- 
servation of  the  slaves  was  confessedly  yet  unborn.* 

As  to  the  new  motive  for  sparing  them,  arising  from  the 
abolition,  which  my  opponents  now  artfully,  though  most  in- 
consistently, allege  to  have  given  birth  to  humane  improve- 
ments^ it  could  be  new  only  in  its  degree ;  and  in  that  respect 
even  its  novelty  was  small ;  for  there  never  was  a  time  in 
which  the  destruction  of  the  slaves  by  excessive  labour  and 
other  oppressions  did  not  manifestly  tend  to  the  future  ruin 
of  the  planter.  The  African  slave-market  was  proverbially 
the  grave  of  his  fortune  and  his  solvency.  All  the  colonial 
witnesses  and  writers,  before  the  abolition,  strongly  attested 
this  truth ;  and  it  was  one  of  the  very  few  points  in  which 
they  were  both  unanimous  and  sincere.  Why,  then,  did  not 
planters,  at  that  time,  generally  use  proper  means  for  the  pre- 
servation of  their  gangs  ?  For  causes  that  equally  exist  at 
the  present  day  ;  because  they  were  then,  as  now,  for  the  most 
part  men  in  needy  and  embarrassed  circumstances,  who  could 
not  make  the  present  sacrifices  necessary  to  that  end,  especi- 
ally that  first  and  most  essential  one,  a  diminution  of  forced 
labour,  without  immediate  or  speedyruin.  Itwas  because  they 
preferred  future,  to  present,  and  contingent,  as  they  hoped  it 
was,  to  certain  evil ;  because  also,  then  as  now,  proprietors  in 
better  circumstances  were  in  general  non-residents,  and  left 
the  management  of  their  estates  implicitly  to  men  who  had  no 
permanent  interest  in  the  preservation  of  the  slaves,  but  a 
present  and  highly  influential  interest  in  the  magnitude  of 
the  crops,  and  consequently  in  the  amount  of  the  labour ; 
lastly,  it  was  because  absent  proprietors  were  then,  as  now, 
easily  deceived,  and  resident  ones  not  rarely  deceived  them- 
selves, in  respect  of  the  true  causes  of  mortality  and  sterility 
among  the  slaves  ;  and  the  proper  means  of  correcting  those 

But  let  us  look  for  a  moment  at  the  general  nature  of  the 
boasted  security  for  good  treatment  in  the  prudent  regard  to 
self-interest,  even  by  independent  and  well-informed  owners. 

Is  it  an  ordinary  feature  of  human  character,  to  resist  pre- 

See  p.  14  to  27,  supra. 

of  Juiced  Labour  in  the  Sugar  Colonies.  69 

sent  temptation,  from  a  provident  and  adequate  estimate,  of 
the  distant  evil,  that  may  ensue  from  yielding  to  it  ?  In 
other  words,  are  prudence  and  self-denial  more  common  than 
the  opposite  defects  ?  and  if  we  can  justly  thus  compliment 
human  nature  in  general,  can  we  fairly  ascribe  the  same 
characteristics  to  the  gentlemen  of  our  West  India  islands  ? 
Many  of  their  own  body,  and  many  of  their  eulogists,  would 
contradict  us  if  we  did.  Their  general  proneness  to  indulge 
when  here,  in  expences  they  can  ill  afford,  whether  we  call 
it,  with  their  friends,  spirit  and  generosity,  or  with  their  cen- 
sors, imprudence  and  extravagance,  is  quite  proverbial ;  and 
in  no  part  of  the  earth  is  the  transition  from  opulence,  to  in- 
digence and  ruin,  a  twentieth  part  so  common  as  it  confes- 
sedly is  among  the  proprietors  of  the  sugar  colonies. 

As  to  the  excitement  of  the  resident  planters  to  the  im- 
provement of  their  present  incomes,  by  pushing  their  culture 
of  exportable  produce  to  the  utmost,  what  objects  can  be  more 
potently  attractive  ?  They  are  not  only  the  exchange  of  em- 
barrassment for  ease,  and  poverty  for  wealth  ;  but  of  sickness 
perhaps,  and  danger,  from  a  lethiferous  climate,  for  health  and 
safety  in  their  native  land  ;  and  above  all,  of  the  multiplied 
discomforts,  and  privations  of  a  residence  in  the  West  Indies, 
for  luxurious  enjoyments  in  England. 

Many  of  them  have  been  educated,  and  spent  the  most  in- 
teresting part  of  their  lives  in  this  country  ;  and  what  is  more 
natural,  than  that  they  should  be  eager  to  return  to  it,  and, 
impatient  of  that  exile,  which  the  present  insufficiency  of 
their  crops  to  keep  down  the  interest  of  their  debts,  and  to 
yield  a  surplus  for  the  expences  of  a  residence  here,  alone  im- 
poses on  them  ?  How  intolerable  to  be  confined  to  a  West 
India  Island,  where  the  pleasures  of  the  field  and  chase  are 
unknown,  and  almost  every  elegant  public  amusement  as 
much  so  ;  where  there  is  no  theatre  for  ambition,  or  literary 
emulation,  and  where  the  pleasures  of  social  intercourse  are 
coarse  and  tasteless,  when  compared  with  those  of  polished 
society  in  England !  Even  the  pure  and  tranquil  enjoyments 
of  family  affection,  are  often  cruelly  cut  off,  or  painfully 
abridged  ;  for  he  must  be  a  selfish  or  very  improvident  pa- 
rent, who  does  not  rather  part  with  his  children,  than 
deny   them  the  benefit   of  European  education,  and  expose 

70  Of  the  probable  Excess 

them  ill  their  early  years,  to  the  corrupting  influence  of  do- 
mestic slavery.  Under  what  possible  circumstances,  then,  can 
the  immediate  increase  of  income,  though  at  the  expence  of 
future  probable  loss,  have  a  more  seductive  influence  on  the 
human  mind,  than  on  the  generality  of  planters  ?  The  youth- 
ful lover,  who  might  obtain  by  it  the  hand  of  his  mistress,  the 
slave  who  might  purchase  his  freedom,  if  not -a.  field  negro, 
could  hardly  have  stronger  inducements. 

Yet  if  my  opponents  speak  truth,  all  these  dangerous  tempt- 
ations to  an  undue  exaction  of  forced  labour,  are  perfectly 
innoxious  to  the  slaves;  and  have  served  only  to  signalize  the 
self-denial  and  generosity  of  the  planters.  Instead  of  com- 
petition having  raised  the  standard,  as  the  opponents  of  the 
system  maintain  it  has,  up  to  and  beyond  the  maximum  of 
innoxious  endurance,  it  falls  short  we  are  told  of  a  proper 
medium  :  leaving  to  the  enslaved  labourers  a  superfluity  of 
rest,  leisure,  and  recreation  ;  nay,  time  enough  for  their  own 
use  to  enrich  them  by  voluntary  industry,  whenever  they  are 
not  too  idly  disposed  so  to  employ  it;  or  even  to  pay  for 
their  freedom.  "  The  great  mass  of  planters,"  though  con- 
signed, as  Mr.  Bryan  Edwards  says,  "  to  unremitting  drudgery 
"  in  the  colonies,''  have  been  so  abstinent,  and  generous,  as  to 
forego,  even  a  reasonable  use  of  their  only  means  of  extrica- 
tion, or  relief;  abandoning  a  large  surplus  of  disposable  la- 
bour, merely  that  the  slaves  might  be  idle,  and  rich  if  they 
pleased  ;  while  their  unfortunate  masters  were  poor,  and  em- 
barrassed, and  pining  in  consequence  of  their  immediate  ne- 
cessities, in  a  painful,  and  life-shortening  exile ! ! ! 

Letme  not  be  understood  as  imputing  to  the  planters  in  general, 
that,  without  the  impulse  of  urgent  necessity,  they  wilfully  and 
consciously  overwork  the  slaves,  to  a  degree  imcompatible  with 
their  preservation.  Many  proprietors,  I  doubt  not,  non-resident 
ones  especially,  are  impressed  with  an  opinion,  that  the  ordinary 
'ong-established  standard  of  forced  labour,  is  not  more  than  their 
slaves,  if  properly  treated  in  other  respects,  can  innoxiously 
sustain.  This  error  indeed,  may  seem  strange ;  considering 
how  long,  and  how  decisively,  a  declining  population,  under 
circumstances  naturally  the  most  favourable  to  its  increase, 
has  attested  the  reverse.  But  unhappily,  as  disease  and 
death  produced  by  excess  of  labour,  have  no  peculiar  or  dis- 

of  forced  habour  in  the  Sugar  Colonies.  71 

tinctive  symptoms  to  indicate  their  source  ;  the  sickliness,  and 
steriHtyof  agang  are  easily  ascribed  by  the  attorney  or  manager, 
andeven  perhaps  by  the  resident  proprietor  himself,  to  some  na- 
tural or  unavoidable  causes;  and  every  death,  when  accounted 
for,  is  attributed  to  some  common  disease ;  though  in  fact  that 
disease  was  but  one  of  the  many  morbid  forms  in  which  a 
constitution  worn  out  by  long  continued  fatigue  and  exhaus- 
tion ultimately  sinks.* 

That  the  diseases  of  the  field  negroes  are  for  the  most  part 
those  of  debility,,  almost  every  authority  on  the  subject  will 
be  found  to  attest ;  but  the  dropsy,  or  the  diarrhoea,  &c.,  not 
the  predisposing  weakness  induced  by  the  driving-whip,  are 
the  concluding  maladies  that  account  for  the  loss  in  the 
plantation  bills  of  mortality. 

If  the  pre-eminent  loss  of  life,  among  the  slaves  of  a  par- 
ticular estate,  attracts  attention  from  its  absent  owner,  and 
leads  to  enquiry,  there  are  always  specious  explanations  at 
hand.  The  situation  is  unhealthy  ;  epidemics  have  prevailed  ; 
the  negroes  are  vicious  in  their  habits  ;  or  they  are  given  to 
dirt-eating,  and  obia,  &c.  ;  whereas  the  neighbours  often 
could  tell  a  different  tale ;  namely,  that  from  the  inadequacy 
of  the  numbers,  to  the  extent  of  the  lands  in  cultivation, 
or  other  causes,  the  slaves  had  been  worked  harder  than  is 
usual,  and  treated,  perhaps,  in  other  respects,  with  a  severity 
exceeding  the  ordinary  standard. 

Much,  I  admit,  cannot  well  be  added  to  that  standard 
as  to  time  of  labour;  but  some  differences  there  are,  as 
I  shall  hereafter  shew  ;  e.  g.  in  the  relays  of  night  work ; 
and  competition  having  pushed  up  the  general  exaction 
of  labour  to  its  maximum  of  long  endurance  by  ordinary 
frames,  a  small  addition  is  naturally  attended  with  very  bad 

*  See  Dr.  CoUins's  Practical  Rules,  in  various  places.  In  page  18,  for 
example,  he  says,  "  The  attomies  or  managers  unfortunately  have  an  in- 
"  terest,  not  only  distinct  from,  but  destructive  of  that  of  the  planters.  The 
"  character  of  a  manager  is  generally  deduced  from  the  quantity  of  produce 
"  which  he  extracts  from  the  estate,  though  the  loss  sustained  bi/  the  mor- 
"  tality  of  the  slaves,  in  consequence  of  his  undue  exertions,  is  sometimes  con- 
"  siderable  enough  to  exhaust  the  whole  amount  of  his  produce.  In  such 
"  cases  the  credit  of  the  crops  is  appropriated  to  those  who  direct  the  es- 
"  tates,  while  the  destj'uction  is  charged  upon  Providence." 

72  Of  the  probable  Excess 

and  fatal  effects  ;  especially  among  the  feebler  and  less  healthy 
individuals  of  the  gang.  When  the  boat  swims  already 
gunwale-deep,  an  additional  pound  may  sink  it. 

The  extraordinary  sickness  and  mortality,  that  often  distin- 
guish particular  estates,  are  not,  however,  simply  the  effects  of 
such  an  additional  pressure  on  the  gangs  at  large,  as  the  ordi- 
nary standard  will  admit  of,  and  the  necessities  of  the  owners 
may  demand  ;  but  of  many  consequential  evils,  which  I  shall 
have  to  notice,  exemplify,  and  prove  hereafter,  as  fruits  of  the 
general  excess  of  forced  labour;  and  still  more  of  any  aggrava- 
tion, however  small,  which  the  slaves  have  not  before  expe- 
perienced.  It  disheartens  the  feeble,  it  excites  murmurs, 
and  sometimes  contumacy,  among  the  strong;  it  multiplies 
desertions,  and  punishments,  and  those  distressing  and  diffi- 
cult questions,  which  every  manager  has  to  decide  almost 
every  day  in  the  cases  of  individuals,  who  have  been  absent 
at  the  driver's  muster,  or  remiss  in  some  appointed  task, 
and  who  allege  sickness  or  weakness  as  their  excuse,  or  as 
a  plea  for  being  admitted  into  the  sick  house,  instead  of  be- 
ing sent  into  the  field. 

I  refer  to  an  Appendix  to  this  part  of  ray  work,  as  furnish- 
ing a  well  authenticated  and  graphic  illustration  of  these 

But  these  causes  of  mortality,  whether  ordinary  or  extra- 
ordinary, are  little  known  to  most  proprietors  on  this  side  of 
the  Atlantic;  and  when  stated  to  them  by  anti-slavery  writers, 
they  oppose  to  the  information  incredulity  as  willing  as  that 
of  a  patient  to  his  surgeon,  who  tells  him,  in  contradiction  to 
the  assurances  of  self-interested  quacks,  that  his  case  requires 
a  painful  operation.  If  they  obtain  from  their  agents  in  the 
colonies,  periodical  returns  of  the  births  and  deaths  on  their 
estates  (which  is  more  than  lately  was,  or  perhaps  yet  is  usually 
required)  and  an  alarming  decrease  is  found,  they  rely,  for  in- 
formation as  to  its  causes,  upon  their  attornies  or  managers ; 
who  are  not  likely  to  impeach  the  general  practice,  and  still 
less  their  own  particular  agency,  by  pointing  out  excess  of 
labour  as  the  true  source  of  the  evil. 

To  resident  proprietors,  the  true  causes  by  which  the  black 
population  is  kept  down,  cannot  without  wilful  self-deception 

of  forced  Labour  in  the  Sugar  Colonies.  73 

be  unknown  ;  but  I  have  shewn  that  from  the  circumstances 
they  for  the  most  part  stand  in,  the  remedy  is  one  which  they 
cannot  apply,  without  consequences  more  formidable  than  the 
progressive  reduction  of  their  gangs ;  and  consequently,  that 
there  is  no  good  security  in  their  sense  of  self-interest,  against 
their  over-working  their  slaves.  Is  there  a  better,  then,  in  the 
other  principle,  which  I  supposed  some  of  my  readers  might 
rely  on,  that  of  humanity  towards  those  unfortunate  and  help- 
less dependents. 

To  those  good-natured,  but  unreflecting  readers,  who  may 
suppose  humane  feelings  not  to  be  obtunded  by  the  exercise 
of  a  slave-master's  discipline,  and  to  be  an  overmatch  for  his 
sense  of  self-interest  in  economical  modes  of  oppression ;  I 
will  not  say,  wait  till  you  are  possessed  of  the  facts  and  de- 
monstrations that  I  have  to  submit  to  you  in  the  following 
chapters  of  this  work;  for  I  am  now  reasoning  only  on  premises 
already  established  and  undenied ;  nor  will  I  refer  them  to 
any  of  the  numerous  cases  of  recent  occurrence  attested  by 
official  authority,  which  manifest  a  state  of  general  feeling 
on  these  subjects,  among  the  resident  colonists,  inconsis- 
tent with  the  clearest  dictates  of  humanity  and  mercy  ;  but 
I  will  ask,  where  was  this  humanity,  when  the  barbarous 
laws,  which  I  have  delineated  in  my  former  volume,  were 
framed  ?  and  where  was  the  practice  of  it  during  the  preva- 
lence of  the  slave  trade  ?  Surely,  it  could  have  had  little  place 
in  the  breasts  of  men,  who  not  only  reconciled  themselves 
to  all  the  horrors  of  that  cruel  traffic,  including  those  of  the 
middle  passage,  many  of  which  were  daily  exhibited  to  their 
view ;  but,  to  the  last,  pertinaciously  opposed  its  abolition.* 

*  Among  all  the  bold  violations  of  notorious  truth  by  which  the  cause 
of  slavery,  or  any  other  cause,  has  been  defended,  I  know  of  none  so  auda- 
cious and  extravagant,  as  the  assertions  recently  put  forth,  that  the  colonies 
were  averse  to  the  African  trade;  and  were  compelled  by  the  mother 
country  to  adhere  to  it. 

True  it  is,  that  among  the  numberless  instances  in  which,  at  various  periods, 
they  have  flown  in  the  face  of  the  mother  country,  and  upbraided  her  with 
the  benefits  her  commerce  was  supposed  to  receive  from  them,  whenever 
they  had  a  point  to  gain  from  her,  they  have  been  able  to  find  two  very 
ancient  cases ;  in  one  of  which  it  was  represented  by  one  colony  on  the 
North  American   continent,  and   in  another  by  Jamaica,  that  they  were 

74  Of  the  probable  Excess 

Nor  did  this  humanity  suffice  to  avert  from  the  poor  African 
victims,  the  very  species  of  oppression  now  under  considera- 
tion, when  purchased  by  the  British  planters  ;  for  they  were 
subjected  immediately  to  a  seasoning,  as  it  is  called,  by  which 
it  is  admitted,  that  at  least  one-fourth,  or  according  to  some 
colonial  writers,  more  than  one-half,  of  their  number  perished. 
And  what  was  this  tremendous  seasoning  ?  Doctor  Collins  has 
furnished  us  with  an  answer  to  that  question.f  It  was  the 
very  abuse,  respecting  the  probability  of  which,  we  are  now 
enquiring  ;  the  forcing  them  by  the  whip,  to  undergo  an  ex- 
cess of  labour,  for  their  slow  training  to  which,  avarice  would 
not  wait ;  and  which  their  nature  could  not  sustain.  The 
humanity  of  the  planters,  in  moderating  the  general  standard 
for  the  seasoned  or  native  slave,  if  moderate  it  was,  must, 
to  be  sure,  have  been  strangely  capricious,  and  inconsistent. 
They  spared  not  the  poor  newly-imported  Africans,  in  the 
exaction  of  labour,  when  they  were  least  able  to  bear  it ;  un- 
moved by  compassion  for  their  recent  sufferings,  and  painful 
reverse  of  habits;  undeterred  even  by  a  consequent  frightful 
mortality,  averaging  at  least  twenty-five  per  cent.,  among  men 
and  women  in  the  prime  of  life;  and  often  much  exceeding 
that  rate.  Can  we  then  imagine,  that  when  use  had  made 
such  oppression  less  intolerable,  or  less  destructive,  at  least 
to  the  hardier  survivors,  these  same  masters  sacrificed  their 
own  present  interests  to  humanity;  and  staying  the  hands  of 
the  drivers,  formed  the  standard  of  labour  for  seasoned  slaves 
within  limits  which  mercy  and  moderation  prescribed  ! 

injured  by  the  slave  trade.  They  well  knew  there  was  no  danger  of  the  mother 
country  taking  them  at  their  word,  and  renouncing  it ;  nor  did  they  profess  to 
be  influenced  by  humanity,  or  any  other  moral  consideration.  But  from  the 
first  proposal  of  the  abolition,  till  that  measure,  twenty  years  after,  took 
place,  the  West  India  colonies  loaded  the  tables  of  parliament  with  peti- 
tions and  manifestoes  against  that  righteous  reformation  ;  nor  ceased  even 
then  to  remonstrate  strongly  against  it,  as  invasive  of  their  rights,  and  de- 
structive of  their  property. 

The  prolongation  of  that  grand  national  iniquity,  from  1788  to  1807,  was 
effected  solely  almost  by  the  zealous  and  potent  efforts  of  the  sugar  colo- 
nies; and  Jamaica  was  foremost  in  the  too  successful  contest.  Do  they 
suppose,  then,  that  the  people  of  England  have  lost  their  memories,  and 
that  the  records  of  parliament  are  destroyed  ? 

f  See  the  extract  from  this  work,  supra,  p.  55. 

of  forced  Labour  in  the  Sugar  Colonies.  75 

If  the  reader  can  believe  this,  his  credulity  must  be  invin- 
cible ;  and  he  may  find  no  difficulty  in  believing  further,  that 
Dr.  Collins,  that  well-informed  apologist  of  himself  and  his 
brother  planters,  has  foully,  and  insidiously  belied  them.  It 
may  be  in  vain  therefore,  perhaps,  that  1  have  shewn,  on  his 
authority,  in  respect  of  native  or  seasoned  slaves  also,  that 
excess  of  labour  with  its  avariciously  indiscriminate  exaction, 
have  been  the  causes  of  their  destruction.* 

But  here  another  staggering  objection  will  occur;  for  if 
humanity  has  moderated  the  quantum  of  labour,  in  which  the 
master's  urgent  immediate  interests  are  directly  opposed  to  his 
forbearance,  how  comes  it  not  to  have  been  active  also  in  re- 
spect of  the  means  and  manner  of  enforcing  it,  in  which  the 
opposition  of  his  interest  seems  less  direct  and  powerful? 
Can  any  man,  who  contemplates  the  barbarities  of  the  driving 
method,  as  depicted  by  Dr.  Collins,f  or  even  in  its  obvious 
and  essential  character,  doubt  of  its  unavoidable  oppression, 
and  cruelty  ?  The  planter's  humanity,  if  humane  he  be,  is 
consigned  to  the  keeping  of  his  drivers,  who  are  negro 
slaves,  and  therefore,  as  the  colonists  assert,  unfeeling  tyrants 
to  each  other ;  and  a  method  is  at  the  same  time  prescribed 
to  them,  which  makes  humane  discrimination,  not  merely  an 
extremely  difficult,  but  quite  impracticable  task. 

It  would  be  a  very  inadequate  reply  in  support  of  the  favour- 
able presumption  I  am  repelling,  to  say,  that  these  views  are 
partly  retrospective,  as  relating  to  a  time  when  the  slave- 
trade  was  in  use  ;  for  by  what  moral  charter  are  the  colonists 
of  the  present  day  exempted  from  the  obdurating  influence  that 
the  administration  of  the  same  interior  system  had  on  their 
predecessors  ?  and  where  is  there  any  evidence  of  an  altered 
spirit  in  their  reception  of  the  humane  suggestions  so  much  of 
late  pressed  upon  them  by  the  British  government  and  legis- 
lature ?  Besides,  the  question  relates  to  a  standard  of  cus- 
tomary labour  established  long  before  the  abolition ;  and  I  trust 

*  See  the  same  note,  p.  55,  56. 

f  Ibid.  The  description  of  Dr.  Collins  as  strikingly  confirms  that  which 
I  gave  in  the  Crisis  of  the  Sugar  Colonies,  and  have  copied  in  my  former 
volume,  much  though  its  veracity  was  disputed,  as  if  it  had  been  written 
for  that  very  purpose. 

76  Presumptiofi  of  excessive  Labour 

it  has  been  shewn  that  if  then  carried  too  high,  there  is  the 
strongest  ground  for  presuming  that  it  has  not  since  been  re- 
duced. That  presumption,  however,  shall  soon  be  confirmed 
by  direct  and  positive  proof. 

Section    II.  —  Decline  of  Population  among  the  Slaves  ou 
Suga?-  Estates. 

Let  us  next  enquire,  whether  the  same  probability  is  not 
strongly  fortified  by  the  undisputed,  and  indisputable  fact, 
that  among  the  field  negroes,  or  common  working-slaves,  on 
sugar  plantations,  there  always  has  been,  and  still  is,  a  la- 
mentable loss  of  life,  such  as  the  reproductive  power  of  na- 
ture does  not  fully  repair. 

The  best  criterion  of  the  good  or  bad  condition  of  the  la- 
bouring  classes  in  any  country,  may  be  found  in  the  increase 
or  decline  of  their  numbers.  This  I  presume  is  a  proposition, 
which  no  man  of  tolerable  information  will  deny :  but  it  is 
the  most  decisive,  when  the  result  is  on  the  unfavourable  side. 
Such  is  the  superfecundity  of  the  human  species,  more  espe- 
cially among  the  tillers  of  the  soil,  that  a  rapid  increase  of 
population  may  consist  with  very  considerable  hardships,  and 
privations  ;  as  I  fear  is  too  much  the  case,  in  many  parts  of 
England  at  this  period :  but  that  their  condition  is  extremely  bad, 
may  with  certainty  be  inferred,  when  the  reproductive  powers 
of  nature  are  so  far  subdued,  though  in  a  climate  propitious 
to  their  constitutions,  that  their  numbers  greatly  decline. 

Emigrations,  general  famines,  or  destructive  wars,  may  in- 
deed form  exceptions  to  the  rule ;  but  from  these  causes  of 
depopulation,  the  slaves  in  our  sugar  colonies  are  pre-eminently 
exempt.  They  are  restrained  from  voluntary  emigration  ;  and 
are  now  protected  by  law,  as  before  the  abolition  they  were  by 
pretty  general  practice,  from  compulsory  removal ;  they  have 
no  military  service  to  perform,  except  on  a  minute  scale,  and 
on  very  rare  occasions  :  nor  has  any  general  famine  been  al- 
leged to  have  occurred  in  any  colony,  during  a  long  series  of 
years.  Yet  the  decline  of  numbers,  among  the  predial  slaves, 
has  always  been  deplorably  great;  and  still  exceeds  any  measure 
of  the  same  calamity,  that  is  elsewhere  to  be  found,  under  or- 

from  the  Decline  of  Population.  77 

dinary  circumstances,  in  the  history  of  tnankind.  In  the  last 
six  years,  comprised  in  the  official  returns  laid  before  parlia- 
ment, viz.  from  1818,  to  1824,  the  loss  amounted  to  3  per 

But  these  general  returns  furnish  a  very  inadequate  view  of 
the  loss  among  the  common  field  negroes  ;  because  they  in- 
clude the  domestics  of  every  description,  the  slaves  em- 
ployed in  various  occupations  in  the  towns  and  ports,  and  the 
tradesmen  or  artificers  and  head-negroes  on  the  plantations, 
who  are  neither  driven,  nor  overworked,  and  among  whom  it 
is  notorious,  the  domestics  especially,  there  is  much  longevity, 
and  a  very  considerable  native  increase.^  A  discrimination 
in  the  returns,  between  these  different  descriptions  of  slaves 
would  be  highly  interesting  and  important. 

That  the  loss  of  numbers  is  pre-eminently  great  or  ex- 
clusively found  among  the  field-negroes  does  not  neces- 
sarily prove,  indeed,  that  excess  of  labour,  is  the  depo- 
pulating cause.  Their  condition  and  treatment  may  be, 
in  other  respects,  bad  and  destructive ;  but  if  the  same  ca- 
lamity occurs  only  in  the  sugar  colonies,  where  forced  la- 
bour is  confessedly  the  most  severe,  and  is  there  proportionate 
to  the  degrees  in  which  sugar  is  raised  ;  if  there  is  no  decline, 
but  on  the  contrary  an  increase  in  the  slave  population,  under 

*  I  refer,  not  for  authority,  but  for  detail  and  computation,  to  a  statistical 
table,  extracted  from  those  public  returns  in  the  Anti-slavery  Monthly  Re 
porter,  No.  26,  for  July,  1827,  in  order  that  any  reader  who  doubts  the  accuracy 
of  this  general  result,  or  any  opponent  who  denies  it,  may  be  enabled  to 
detect  and  expose  any  error  in  the  arithmetic  or  official  data.  The  waste 
of  life  is  evidently  in  a  larger  proportion,  by  all  the  amount  of  that  in- 
crease which  should  have  been  made  by  births,  within  the  same  period  : 
and  estimating  this  only  by  the  rate  of  increase  in  the  slaves  of  the  United 
States,  as  stated  from  authentic  public  documents  in  the  same  paper,  the 
loss  in  six  years  may  be  said  to  be  more  that  18  per  cent.,  or  3  per  cent, 
per  annum,  amounting  in  number  to  145,331.  See  also  the  Anti-Slavery 
Reporter,  No.  27,  p.  52. 

f  "  Domestic  negroes,"  says  Dr.  Collins,  "  who  undergo  no  more 
"  drudgery  than  household  duties  require,  and  are  supplied  with  com- 
"  petent  food  and  clothing,  are  as  healthy  and  prolific,  and  live  as  long 
"  as  any  other  class  of  people  in  the  West  Indies."  —  Practical  Rules, 
p.  19. 

78  Presumption  of  excessive  Labour 

the  same, or  more  unfavourable  circumstances,  wherever  that  ar- 
ticle is  not  cultivated,  and  labour  consequently  is  less  severe  ; 
and  if,  where  there  is  no  forced  labour  at  all,  the  same  race,  in 
the  same  climate,  multiply  with  great  rapidity,*  surely  we 
must  in  sound  reasoning  ascribe  the  calamity  to  the  one  pe- 
culiar cause. 

Now,  that  such  are  the  facts  of  the  case  has  been  often 
asserted  by  the  public  opponents  of  slavery ;  and  never,  to 
my  knowledge,  denied  by  its  apologists ;  and  has  been  de- 
monstrated by  evidence  of  the  most  authoritative  kind.  In 
colonies  where  sugar  is  not  cultivated,  as,  for  instance,  in  the 
Bahamas,  the  slaves  are  found  to  have  a  great  native  increase ; 
the  same,  though  in  a  less  degree,  is  the  case  in  the  sugar 
colonies  themselves,  on  cotton  estates ;  and  everywhere,  to  a 
very  considerable  extent,  among  domestic  slaves.  In  the 
United  States  of  America,  the  increase  in  the  slave  popu- 
lation is  from  to  2  to  21  per  cent,  per  annum,  though  slavery, 
in  point  of  law,  and  in  practice  too,  the  article  of  labour  ex- 
cepted, is  not  less  severe  than  in  our  own  sugar  colonies  ;  and 
though  the  climate  is  certainly  much  less  favourable  to  African 

It  may  be  doubted,  whether  the  native  increase  among  the 
slaves  in  that  country,  is  less  than  among  its  free  inhabitants ; 
for  the  ratio  of  increase  in  the  general  population  of  the 
United  States  appears,  by  a  decennial  census,  to  be  very  re- 
gularly about  three  per  cent,  per  annum,  comprising  all 
classes,i-  and  if  the  increase  of  the  free  exceeds,  by  a  half 
per  cent,  or  somewhat  more,  that  of  the  slaves,  the  very  large 
influx  of  the  former  from  foreign  countres,  together  with  ma- 
numissions of  the  latter,  may  well  account  for  the  difference. 

*  The  existence  of  all  the  phenomena  here  mentioned,  are  shewn  from 
official  authorities  in  the  Anti-Slavery  Reporters  last  cited,  and  in  No.  31, 
p. 155. 

f  See  statistical  accounts  quoted  in  the  Quarterly  Review  for  January, 
1828,  p.  264.  I  am  sorry  to  say  that  I  might  cite  this  very  eminent  periodi- 
cal work  as  evidence,  were  it  necessary,  without  infringing  my  general  rule. 
See  also  the  striking  facts  and  observations  in  the  Edinburgh  Review  for 
June,  1829,  p.  497,  8. 

from  the  Decline  of  Population.  79 

The  observation  tends  strongly  to  shew  the  great  natural 
fecundity  of  the  African  race,  when  unsubdued  by  a  pernicious 
excess  of  labour ;  for  that  the  state  of  slavery  is,  even  with- 
out this  destructive  species  of  oppression,  unfriendly  to  the 
multiplication  of  our  species,  cannot  admit  of  a  doubt.  I 
have  already  noticed  the  case  of  Hayti,  where  forced  labour 
exists  no  more  ;  and  where  a  mortality  not  less  dreadful  than 
the  greatest  that  ever  prevailed  in  our  own  islands,  existed 
while  it  was  a  flourishing  sugar  colony.  Such,  there,  has 
been  the  rapid  increase  of  the  black  population,  that  its 
amount,  by  the  best  authenticated  estimates,  has  been  nearly 
doubled,  in  less  than  thirty  years. 

But  a  contrast  still  more  instructive  and  decisive,  if  possi- 
ble, and  to  which  I  request  special  attention,  may  be  found 
in  Trinidad  ;  and  is  attested  by  an  official  document  trans- 
mitted by  the  Council  of  that  Island,  through  the  Governor; 
being  an  extract  from  the  Council's  Minutes,  of  the  examin- 
ations taken  by  them,  for  the  purpose  of  supporting  their 
opposition  to  the  progressive  manumission  of  slaves,  on  the 
ground  of  forced  labour  being  necessary  for  the  cultivation  of 
their  estates.  It  may  surprise  most  of  my  readers,  perhaps, 
that  in  this  paper  (printed  by  order  of  the  House  of  Com- 
mons of  the  14th  of  June,  1827)  we  find  the  following  facts  ; 

Between  November  1815  and  January  1821,  at  different 
periods,  774  negroes  were  brought  into  that  island,  which 
had  been  rescued  from  slavery,  partly  by  the  seizure  of  slave 
ships,  under  the  abolition  acts  ;  but  chiefly  by  running  away 
from  their  masters  in  the  United  States,  and  taking  refuge  on 
board  our  ships  of  war,  during  our  hostilities  with  that  country ; 
which  they  did  on  the  British  admiral's  invitation,  and  under 
his  promise  of  protection  and  freedom. 

The  liberty  given  to  them  at  Trinidad,  was  by  no  means 
perfect.  They  were  placed  under  the  protection  of  an  officer 
appointed  by  government;  a  planter  of  the. island,  and  who 
had  been  habituated  to  the  practice  of  slavery  on  his  own 
estate  during  two-and-twenty  years;  and  such  were  his  powers 
of  restraint  and  discipline,  that  an  uninformed  reader  might 
be  at  a  loss  to  distinguish  their  state  clearly  from  that  of  the 
slaves  around  them.     In  fact,  its  main  distinction,  but  an  all 

80  Presumption  of  excessive  Labour 

important  one,  was  that  they  were  not  driven,  or  forcibly  com- 
pelled to  work,  for  the  profit  of  a  master,  and  at  his  discretion ; 
but  worked  for  their  own  benefit  only ;  though  restrained 
from  idleness  and  vagrancy,  by  a  discipline  sufficiently  strict. 

What  was  the  result  ?  —  In  the  close  of  1824,  or  by  the 
1st  of  February,  1825,  native  increase  was  found  to  have  added 
to  their  number  147 .— (See  the  parliamentary  paper  referred 
to,  p.  2  and  30).  What  was  the  sad  reverse,  during  the  same 
period,  and  what  is  it  still,  with  the  slaves  driven  to  their 
work,  in  the  same  island  ?  A  loss,  as  appears  by  the  latest 
official  returns,  of  two  and  th7-ee  quarters  percent  per  annum!! ! 

In  what  way  can  our  planters  defend  their  system  against 
all  these  damning  facts  ?  Their  old  plea  was  a  disparity  be- 
tween the  sexes ;  but  it  was  not  true,  generally  speaking, 
when  alleged  ;  and  it  has  since  been  proved  by  official  returns, 
that  in  the  old  colonies  the  female  slaves  have  for  many  years 
rather  exceeded  the  males.  Even  in  Trinidad,  the  inequality 
is  very  small ;  but  among  the  free  negroes  there,  whose  pro- 
gress in  population  I  have  contrasted  with  the  shocking 
decline  among  the  slaves,  the  disproportion  of  sexes  was 
on  the  contrary  extremely  great ;  and  had  been  still  greater. 
There  were,  by  the  protector's  statement,  in  December, 
1824,  no  less  than  350  men  to  160  women;  and  till 
1817  the  case  must  have  been  still  worse;  for  63  'women 
were  then  added;  and  there  had  been  no  subsequent  ad- 
dition of  males,  (same  paper,  p.  5  and  2).  The  result  is, 
from  these  circumstances,  the  more  striking  and  decisive. 
No  possible  experiment  could  more  clearly  demonstrate  the 
murderous  effects  of  excessive  forced  labour  on  sugar  estates, 
or  the  falsehood  of  every  plea  that  ascribes  them  to  any  other 
cause  than  this  ;  with  the  concurrent  oppressions  to  which  that 
abuse  gives  rise.  The  American  refugees  brought  with  them, 
no  doubt,  to  Trinidad,  all  the  vices  of  slavery ;  and  the  liberated 
Africans,  all  those  bad  habits  and  propensities,  which  have 
borne  the  blame  of  disease  and  death,  and  sterility  in  many 
a  West  Indian  apology  ;  but  they  were  not  driven  ;  and  they 
were  not  overworked. 

I  will  here  conclude  these  preliminary  views ;  and  I  desire, 
after  all,  to  take  nothing  by  them  in  the  judgment  of  my 

from  the  Decline  of  Population.  81 

readers,  beyond  the  preparing  their  minds  for  a  fair  examinj^- 
tion  of  the  evidence,  as  to  the  actual,  and  very  lamentable 
case,  which  I  shall  now  proceed  to  open.  Whatever  pre- 
possessions they  may  have  formed  in  favour  of  colonial  pro- 
prietors, from  friendship,  connection,  or  sjjecious  private 
representations,  enough,  I  trust,  has  been  said  to  prevent  their 
rejecting  at  the  outset,  as  incredible,  those  revolting  truths, 
ivhich  it  is  my  painful  duty  to  unfold. 

VOL.  n. 

82  Of  the  Excess  of  forced  Labour 



Section  I. — Introductory  Remarks  and  Divisions  of  the  Sub- 
ject of  this  Chapter. 

Labour  may  be  excessive,  either  in  point  of  duration  or  in- 
tensity. It  may  occupy  too  large  a  portion  of  the  labourer's 
time ;  leaving  him  intervals  too  short  for  reasonable  refresh- 
ment and  repose ;  or  it  may,  in  the  degree  of  immediate 
muscular  exertion,  be  too  arduous  and  severe.  In  both  these 
modes,  the  field  negroes  on  sugar  plantations  are  cruelly  and 
destructively  overworked. 

The  degree  of  intensity  of  labour,  is  obviously  not  suscepti- 
ble of  such  direct  definition  and  proof  as  its  duration  ;  because 
we  have  no  definite  standard  or  scale  whereby  to  measure 
muscular  exertion. 

An  actual  beholder  may  perceive  that  a  man  is  working 
hard,  or  the  reverse  ;  but  has  no  means  by  which  he  can  clearly 
prove  the  fact  to  others ;  still  less  any  terms  by  which  he  can 
define  the  positive  degree  of  energy  or  languor.  To  convey 
any  accurate  conception  of  it,  he  must  resort  to  the  effects 
produced,  in  a  given  time  ;  and  can  apply  that  criterion  only 
when  the  subjects  and  modes  of  labour,  and  its  ordinary  pro- 
duce, are  such  as  we  are  familiar  with.  When  these  are  all 
unknown,  and  local  circumstances  also,  affecting:  the  work- 
man,  arc  foreign  to  our  experience  and  observation,  we  cannot 
easily  form  even  a  comparative  estimate  of  the  work,  in  point 

in  point  of  Time.  83 

of  easiness  or  intensity.  An  English  farmer  may  judge  from 
the  quantity  of  corn  threshed  out  in  a  day,  whether  his 
labourer  has  worked  with  more  or  less  than  ordinary  exertion; 
but  what  degree  of  effort  has  been  requisite  to  produce 
annually,  by  a  gang  of  West  India  slaves,  whose  number  is 
given,  a  certain  quantity  of  sugar,  and  whether  the  indivi- 
duals who  compose  that  gang  have  worked  hard  or  otherwise 
in  given  times  during  the  different  processes  of  the  planta- 
tion, are  questions  evidently  beyond  the  reach  of  calculation, 
upon  any  premises  known  to  my  European  readers  at  large  ; 
though  I  hope  to  furnish  them  with  some  that  may  suffice 
for  a  general  and  highly  probable  judgment. 

But  the  same  is  not  the  case  as  to  the  diurnal,  or  other 
periodical  times,  during  tvhich  the  work  is  continued.  Here  we 
have  a  measure  of  moderation  or  excess,  positive,  definite,  and 
clear;  and  applicable  to  every  species  of  human  labour,  in 
every  climate,  though  not  in  an  equal  degree.  The  more 
intense  the  exertion  is,  and  the  hotter  the  atmosphere,  the 
more  fatiguing  and  exhausting  a  given  duration  of  labour 
obviously  must  be;  and  the  latter  distinction  is,  for  reasons 
assigned  in  the  preceding  chapters,  of  main  importance.  If 
the  maximum  of  the  time  which  can  be  given  to  the  labours 
of  the  field  in  a  temperate  climate,  without  prejudice  to  life  or 
health,  can  be  found,  we  may  with  certainty  conclude,  that  in 
the  torrid  zone,  the  same  duration  of  them  would  amount  to 
great  and  pernicious  excess. 

I  shall,  therefore,  in  the  first  place,  state  and  demonstrate 
the  actual  portions  of  time  during  which  the  predial  slaves 
in  the  sugar  colonies  are  compelled  to  work,  diurnally  and 
weekly,  at  the  different  seasons  of  the  year :  next,  shall 
assist  my  readers  with  such  information  and  suggestions  as 
may  enable  them,  in  some  degree,  though  imperfectly,  to 
estimate  the  intensity  of  the  labour  ;  and  afterwards,  compare 
it  with  the  ordinary  amount  of  agricultural  labour  in  En- 
gland, and  other  countries. 

c;   2 

84  Of  the  Excess  of  forced  Labour 

Section  II. — The  Labour  is  cruellj/  excessive  in  point  of  Time. 

Those  who  are  not  familiar  with  the  controversies,  of  which 
slave  trade  and  slavery  have  been  the  subjects,  and  the  ge- 
neral character  of  those  defences  which  the  colonial  party 
have  made  successively  for  both,  may  suppose  that  the  ac- 
tual time  of  daily  labour,  cannot  well  have  been  a  topic  of 
much  dispute  in  point  of  fact ;  more  especially  if  the  practice 
in  that  respect  is  uniform  and  long  established  ;  because  it 
may  be  thought  a  matter  too  conspicuous  and  notorious,  to  be 
greatly  misrepresented  on  either  side,  without  certain  detec- 
tion and  disgrace. 

But  unhappily,  in  this  case,  the  controversy  is  on  one  side 
of  the  Atlantic,  and  the  facts  are  on  the  other.  Still  more  un- 
happily, the  system  in  question  is  so  highly  disreputable  and 
offensive  in  European  eyes,  that  violations  of  truth  in  its  de- 
fence, are  held  less  disgraceful  by  those  who  are  engaged  in 
it,  than  the  admission  of  its  real  nature  and  details ;  nor  can 
they  hope,  by  any  fair  means,  to  avert  reformations  which 
they  deem  subversive  of  their  fortunes,  by  the  interposition  of 
the  British  Legislature.  They  have  not  scrupled  therefore  to 
publish,  and  solemnly  to  attest  in  this  country,  statements 
grossly  repugnant  to  truth,  and  to  local  notoriety  ,•  and  when 
such  impostures  have  been  refuted  and  exposed,  even  on  the 
evidence  of  their  own  partizans  and  their  own  records,  they 
have  boldly  reiterated  the  same  refuted  falsehoods  ;  and  en- 
deavoured to  cry  down  as  calumniators  and  liars,  all  who 
have  borne  testimony  to  the  truth. 

If  any  man  deems  this  censure  too  strong  to  be  true,  I  refer 
him  to  the  general  misrepresentations  exposed  in  the  last 
chapter ;  and  might  refer  also  to  my  former  volume,  for  the 
many  extravagant  mistatements  of  the  slave-laws,  which  it 
quotes  and  clearly  refutes,  by  extracts  from  their  own  printed 
codes,  and  by  the  testimony  of  some  of  their  own  witnesses  ; 
and  to  the  many  virulent  libels  by  which  those  labours  of  mine 
on  the  side  of  the  truth  have  been  repaid.  Let  it  not  then  be 
thought  incredible  or  strange,  that  the  planters  and  their 
apologists,  have  stated  the  ordinary  long  established  time  of 
slave  labour  per  diem,  as  being  less  in  an  enormous  proportion 

in  point  of  Time.  85 

than  its  true  amount;  or  that  some  of  them  have  had  the  au- 
dacity to  advance  that  it  does  not  exceed  eight  or  nine  hours 
per  diem  ;  whereas  I  shall  prove  it,  from  details  furnished  by 
evidence  on  their  own  side,  to  be,  in  crop-time,  eighteen  hours 
and  more,  and  at  least  sixteen  on  an  average  through  the  year. 

The  best  and  fairest  way  of  enabling  my  readers  to  under- 
stand and  apply  the  evidence  on  this  branch  of  my  subject, 
will  be  to  shew  them,  first,  what  was  specifically  alleged  upon 
it  at  the  outset,  by  the  early  advocates  of  reformation ;  and  next 
to  examine  the  colonial  testimony  that  was  opposed  to  them  ; 
especially  that  which  was  given  before  the  committees  of  the 
privy  council  and  the  House  of  Commons,  on  the  question  of 
abolishing  the  slave  trade.  The  reader  will  thus  be  possessed 
of  the  various  points  that  were  in  issue  between  the  parties, 
on  this  important  subject ;  and  be  enabled  to  form  a  right 
judgment  between  them  as  to  its  true  amount  at  that  period; 
after  which  he  will  be  better  prepared  to  follow  me  in  an  ex- 
amination of  the  most  recent  colonial  evidence,  in  order  to  de- 
termine whether  there  has  since  been  any  change  on  the  side 
of  moderation  or  mercy. 

I  shall  select,  for  the  first  purpose,  the  statements  of  the 
Rev.  Mr.  Ramsay  ;  because  his  publication  gave  the  first 
practical  view  of  slavery  in  the  sugar  colonies,  that  excited 
the  attention  of  the  British  public ;  and  formed  the  basis  of 
the  long  controversy  on  that  subject  which  ensued.  It  was  to 
the  refutation  or  support  of  his  statements,  that  the  respective 
combatants  chiefly  bent  their  efforts.  Without  a  previous  know- 
ledge of  these,  therefore,  much  of  the  evidence  which  I  have 
to  cite  would  be  imperfectly  understood. 

Let  it  not  be  supposed  for  a  moment,  that  I  am  here  re- 
ceding from  the  engagement  of  verifying  my  delineation  of 
slavery  by  the  testimony  of  its  apologists  alone.  I  do  not 
cite  Mr.  Ramsay  as  a  witness,  though  he  was  a  highly 
respectable  and  competent  one ;  and  was  attached  to  the 
colonies,  by  the  nearest  family  connections ;  for  he  was,  like 
myself,  a  foe  to  the  system  he  described.  I  desire,  therefore, 
that  his  account  may  be  considered  as  of  no  more  authority 
than  the  speech  of  a  counsel,  in  opening  the  case  of  a  pro- 
secutor to  the  jury.  But  as  it  is  often  absolutely  necessary, 
when  a  general  charge  is  to  be  made  out  in  a  court  of  law  by 

86  Of  the  Excess  of  forced  Labour 

the  combined  effect  of  many  particular  facts,  that  a  connected 
statement  should  precede  the  adduction  of  proofs  ;  so  here, 
the  daily  and  nightly  work  of  the  slaves  at  different  seasons, 
being  a  subject  of  complexity  and  detail,  it  is  necessary  for 
the  reader's  assistance,  that  he  should  be  imformed  at  the  out- 
set, with  some  particularity,  what  the  accusers  allege  and  un- 
dertake to  prove.  I  might,  it  is  true,  attain  in  this  respect, 
the  same  object  by  a  preliminary  statement  of  my  own  ;  but, 
for  the  reason  assigned,  it  is  better  to  extract  Mr.  Ramsay's. 

"  The  discipline  of  a  sugar  estate,"  said  that  writer,  "  is  as 
"  exact  as  that  of  a  reg-iment.  At  four  o'clock  in  the  morn- 
"  ing,  the  plantation  bell  rings  to  call  the  slaves  into  the 
"  field.  Their  work  is  to  manure,  dig  and  hoe-plow,  the 
**  ground,  to  plant,  weed,  and  cut  the  canes,  and  bring  them 
"  to  the  mill,  &c.  About  nine  o'clock  they  have  half  an  hour 
"  for  breakfast,  which  they  take  in  the  field.  —  Again  they 
"  fall  to  work  ;  and,  according  to  the  custom  of  the  plantation, 
"  continue  until  eleven  o'clock  or  noon.  The  bell  then  rings  ; 
"  and  the  slaves  are  dispersed  in  the  neighbourhood  to  pick 
"  up  about  the  fences,  in  the  mountains  and  fallows,  or  waste 
"  grounds,  natural  grass  and  weeds  for  the  horses  and  cattle. 
"  The  time  allotted  for  this  branch  of  work  and  preparation 
"  of  dinner,  varies  from  an  hour  and  a  half  to  near  three 
"  hours.  In  collecting  pile  by  pile  their  little  bundles  of 
"  grass,  the  slaves  of  lowland  plantations  frequently  burnt 
"  up  by  the  sun,  must  wander  in  their  neighbour's  grounds 
"  perhaps  more  than  two  miles  from  home." 

After  noticing  some  occasional  hardships,  to  which  the  poor 
slave  is  exposed  by  being  punished  as  a  trespasser,  and  having 
his  bundle  of  grass  taken  away  from  him,  after  its  painful 
collection,  he  adds,  "  At  one,  or  in  some  plantations  at  two 
"  o'clock,  the  bell  summonses  them  to  deliver  in  the  tale  of 
"  their  grass,  and  assemble  to  their  field-work.  If  the  owner 
"  thinks  their  bundles  too  small,  or  if  they  come  too  late 
"  with  them,  they  are  punished  with  a  number  of  stripes  from 
"  four  to  ten :  some  masters,  under  a  fit  of  carefulness  for 
"  their  cattle,  have  gone  as  far  as  fifty  stripes.  About  half 
"  an  hour  before  sun-set,  they  may  be  found  scattered  again 
"  over  the  land,  to  cull  again  blade  by  blade  from  among  the 
"  weeds,  their  scanty  parcels  of  grass.     About  seven  o'clock 

in  point  of  Time.  87 

"  in  the  evening,  or  later  according  to  the  season  of  the  year, 
"  when  the  overseer  can  find  leisure,  they  are  called  over  by 
"  list  to  deliver  in  their  second  bundles  of  grass  ;  and  the 
"  same  punishment  as  at  noon  is  inflicted  on  the  delinquents. 
"  They  then  separate,  to  pick  up,  in  their  way  to  their  huts, 
"  (if  they  have  not  done  it,  as  they  generally  do,  while  gather- 
"  ing  grass,)  a  little  brushwood  or  cow-dung,  to  prepare  some 
"  simple  mess  for  supper  and  to-morrow's  breakfast.  This 
"  employs  them  till  near  midnight;  and  then  they  go  to  sleep 
"  till  the  bell  calls  them  in  the  morning."* 

*'  The  work  here  mentioned  (continues  Mr.  Ramsay)  is 
"  considered  as  the  duty  of  slaves  that  may  be  insisted  on, 
"  without  reproach  to  the  manager  of  unusual  severity ;  and 
"  which  the  white  and  black  overseers  stand  over  them  to  see 
''  executed;  the  transgression  of  which  is  quickly  followed  with 
"  the  smart  of  the  cart-whip.f  In  crop-time,  which  (he  ob- 
"  serves)  may  be  reckoned  together  on  a  plantation  from  five  to 
"  six  months,  the  cane-tops,  by  supplying  the  cattle  with  food, 
"  give  the  slaves  some  little  relaxation  in  picking  grass ;  but 
"  some  planters,  will,  especially  in  moonlight,  keep  their 
"  slaves  till  ten  o'clock  at  night,  in  carrying  wowra  (the  de- 
"  cayed  leaves  of  the  cane)  to  boil  oif  the  cane  juice:  a  con- 
"  siderable  number  of  slaves  are  kept  to  attend  in  turn  the 
"  mill  and  boiling  house  all  night." 

"  The  process  of  sugar-making,  is  carried  on  in  many 
"  plantations  for  months,  without  any  other  interruption  than 
"  during  some  part  of  day-light  on  Sundays.  In  some  plan- 
"  tations  it  is  the  custom  to  keep  the  whole  gang  employed 
"  as  above,  from  morning  to  night,  and  alternately  one  half 
"  throughout  the  night,  to  supply  the  mill  with  canes,  and  the 
"  boiling-house  with  wowra. ;{: 

He  admits  that  there  are  mitigations  of  this  treatment 
among  the  more  humane  and  liberal  planters ;  and  adds  : 
"  In  some  particular  plantations  they  enjoy  as  much  ease 
"  and  indulgence,  the   grievance  of  picking  grass,  and  the 

*  Essay  on  the  Treatment  and  Conversion  of  African  Slaves  in  the 
British  Colonies,  by  the  Rev,  James  Ramsay,  \'icar  of  Teston,  Kent, 
p.  69—72. 

t  Ibid.  p.  74.  +  Ibid.  p.  76. 

88  Of  the  Excess  of  forced  Labour 

"  circumstance  of  their  being  so  long  as  sixteen  hours  out  oj  the 
"  twentt/-four  under  the  lash  of  the  drivers,  excepted,  as  are 
"  compatible  with  tlieir  present  state  of  ignorance  and 
"  dependance,  and  the  accurate  methodical  cultivation  of  a 
"  sugar  estate."* 
These  statements,  with  Mr,  Ramsay's  other  revolting  accounts 

of  negro  slavery,  were,  by  the  colonial  party,  loudly  and  indig- 
nantly denied.  They  exclaimed  against  its  author,  as  a  wilful 
and  malicious  violator  of  truth  ;  and  a  gross  calumniator  of  the 
j)lanters,  among  whom  he  had  lived  respected  and  beloved, 
about  twenty  years.  They  commenced  against  him  the  use 
of  those  tactics,  which  they  have  since  uniformly  employed 
against  all  the  eye-witnesses  of  their  system,  who  have  dared 
to  give  their  public  testimony  to  its  abuses.  Numerous  de- 
famatory libels  were  published  against  him,  and  widely  cir- 
culated, to  impair  his  credit  in  this  country  ;  and  not  without 
effect;  though,  I  believe,  few  men  ever  had  a  stronger  shield 
against  them,  among  all  to  whom  the  pure  and  blameless 
tenor  of  his  private  life  was  known.  But  as  I  claim  no  cre- 
dence to  his  testimony,  as  such,  it  is  not  incumbent  on  me 
here  to  defend  his  memory.  It  will  be  enough  for  me  to  prove 
the  truth  of  the  statements  I  have  quoted.f 

*  Ibid.  p.  87. 

f  In  undertaking  to  prove  the  truth  of  this  account,  I  do  not  mean  that 
it  is  accurate  in  every  particular ;  or  that  it  was  so  generally,  in  the  sense 
that  Mr.  ll.'s  enemies  ascribed  to  it;  but  only  in  his  own.  He  meant 
to  describe  the  practice  as  he  had  known  it  in  St.  Christopher,  or  in  that 
island  and  Nevis  alone  ;  as  clearly  appears  from  the  work  itself.  In  Jamaica, 
and  some  other  sugar-colonies,  the  subjects,  modes,  and  times  of  labour, 
are,  and  always  have  been,  variant  in  some  respects  from  those  of  the  old 
colonies,  which  then  formed  the  Leeward-island  government ;  and  I  shall 
fully  notice  those  varieties  hereafter.  The  reverend  author  also  admitted, 
as  we  have  seen,  that  there  was  less  severity  of  treatment  on  some  planta- 
tations  in  the  same  islands,  than  on  others.  He  meant  his  account  to  be  con- 
sidered, therefore,  as  generally,  not  universally  true. 

But  I  would  direct  the  attention  of  my  readers  to  the  last  extract,  which 
I  have  printed  in  italics,  as  descriptive  of  the  ordinary  amount  of  daily 
labour,  even  on  those  estates  which  he  notices  as  favourable  exceptions. 
That  this  was  not,  and  still  is  not,  less  than  sixteen  hours  in  the  twenty-four 
on  an  average,  I  trust  clearly  to  establish  in  respect  of  the  sugar-colonies  at 

in  point  of  Time.  89 

Such  having  been  the  facts  alleged  on  the  one  side,  let  me 
next  shew  to  what  extent  they  were  denied  on  the  other.  In 
the  examinations,  that  soon  after  took  place  before  the  Com- 
mittee of  the  Privy  Council,  appointed  to  enquire  into  facts 
connected  with  the  slave-trade,  there  was  a  standing  inter- 
rogatory relative  to  the  hours  of  daily  labour  generally  ex- 
acted from,  and  the  times  of  rest  allowed  to,  the  slaves,  in 
each  of  the  sugar-colonies ;  and  many  witnesses  of  the  first 
respectability  among  the  planters,  including  the  agents  of 
the  different  islands,  were  examined  upon  it.  Among  them, 
the  gentlemen  connected  with  Jamaica,  deserve,  in  respect 
of  the  extent  and  importance  of  that  colony,  the  first  atten- 
tion. They  were,  Mr.  Fuller,  the  then  agent,  Mr.  Long, 
and  Mr.  Chisholme ;  and  their  joint  answer  was,  "  The  work- 
"  ing  hours  of  the  slaves,  are  eight,  or  not  exceeding  nine 
"  in  the  four  and  tiventy.'"* 

This  was  no  hasty  or  ill-considered  answer  of  those  re- 
spectable witnesses;  for  their  attention  having  been  again 
called  to  the  subject  by  another  standing  interrogatory,  which 
enquired  as  to  differences  of  the  labour,  at  different  seasons 
of  the  year ;  they  said,  "  The  work  of  the  negro  slaves  in 
"  Jamaica,  is  far  less  than  that  of  a  labourer  in  Great  Britain. 
"  They  have  in  general  fifteen  hours  in  twenty-four  to  them- 

large;  and  if  this  proposition  is  proved;  it  ought  to  be  more  than  enough 
for  my  purpose. 

In  saying  that  the  slaves  worked  so  long  "  under  the  lash  of  the  drivers,^' 
Mr.  R.  was  unjustly  charged  with  falsehood.  His  meaning  manifestly  is 
not  that  the  lash  was  so  long  actually  inflicted,  or  that  the  drivers  were  all 
the  time  behind  them ;  for  he  had  described  no  small  portion  of  it  as  em- 
ployed while  the  slaves,  scattered  over  the  same  or  other  estates,  were 
employed  in  their  solitary  individual  task  of  grass-picking.  His  words 
plainly  were  meant  to  convey  no  more  than,  that  either  the  presence,  or  the 
terror  of  the  driver's  whip,  compelled  the  slaves  to  work  so  long.  It  is 
in  this  sense,  that  I  undertake  to  maintain  his  proposition  ;  and  must  so 
far  qualify  it  in  respect  of  colonies,  not  in  his  contemplation,  those  in 
which  the  slaves  raise  their  own  provisions — as  to  admit  that  the  coercive 
principle  is  not  generally  during  that  employment,  the  terror  of  the 
drivers  ;  but  in  great  measure  the  sense  of  hunger^  or  the  dread  of  approach- 
ing want. 

*  Printed  Report,  part  3.  title  Jamaica,  (J.  A.  No.  9. 

90  Of  the  Excess  of  forced  Labour 

"  selves ;  which  is  quite  sufficient  for  sleep,  and  for  cooking 
*'  and  eating  their  victuals,  to  say  nothing  of  recreations."* 

I  request  the  reader's  attention  to  the  terms  of  this  latter 
answer ;  because  they  preclude  the  resort  to  an  explanation, 
which  I  shall  have  occasion  much  to  notice  hereafter, — the 
omitting  in  such  statements,  the  time  during  which  the  slaves 
are  obliged  to  work  in  the  culture  of  provisions,  for  their  own 
subsistence.  No  such  explanation  can  here  be  allowed ; 
since  cooking  and  eating  were  alleged  to  be  the  only  deduc- 
tions from  the  fifteen  hours  left  for  sleep  and  recreation  :  nor 
did  these  gentlemen  say  any  thing  as  to  the  great  increase  of 
labour  in  crop-time ;  though  the  interrogatory  expressly  en- 
quired, whether  there  was  any  increase  of  it  in  time  of 

Here,  then,  we  have  a  breadth  of  contradiction  to  Mr. 
Ramsay,  such  as  must  astonish  any  man  not  familiar  with 
the  ordinary  character  of  colonial  testimony  on  these  subjects. 
The  difference  in  respect  of  this  general  fact,  of  the  utmost 
publicity  in  the  colonies,  is  as  eight  or  nine  to  sixteen  ;  or  nearly 
as  two  to  one.  If  these  witnesses  spoke  the  truth,  the  re- 
verend author  they  contradicted,  a  beneficed  clergyman  of 
the  Church  of  England,  in  venturing  on  so  enormous  an 
exaggeration,  in  the  face  of  a  powerful  party,  with  multitudes 
on  the  spot  to  whom  his  exposure  would  be  interest,  honour, 
and  favour  with  all  their  fellow-colonists,  must  be  supposed 
to  have  made  shipwreck,  not  only  of  his  morals,  but  his 
understanding.  But  before  the  reader  adopts  this  conclusion, 
let  him  in  the  next  place  attend  to  what  other  witnesses  on 
the  colonial  side,  stated  on  the  same  subject,  nearly  at  the 
same  time. 

Almost  all  the  other  witnesses  examined  before  the  Privy 
Council,  in  answering  the  same  interrogatories,  prudently 
avoided  defining  the  amount  of  labour  or  of  respite,  by  the 
number  of  hours  per  day.  The  only  exception  I  have  noted, 
was  Mr.  Laing  of  Dominica,  who  says,  "  They  (the  slaves) 
"  are  not  on  an  average  employed  above  ten  hours  in  the 
"  twenty-four."  t     If  he  meant  to   include   the   crop-time, 

*  Printed  Report,  &c.,  Q.  A.  No.  36. 

t  Privy  Council  Report^  part  3.  title  Dominica,  A.  No.  9. 

in  point  of  Time.  91 

this  is  a  discordancy  with  the  Jamaica  witnesses,  by  no  more 
than  one  or  two  hours  per  day,  (no  small  difference,  certainly, 
in  respect  of  hard  and  constant  labour,  more  especially  between 
the  tropics) ;  but  it  plainly  appears,  that  he  could  not  so  mean  ; 
because  in  answering  the  other  interrogatory,  he  states  that  in 
the  crop-season,  which  he  says  is  from  February  to  June, "  The 
"  slaves  employed  in  the  mill  and  boiling  house,  are  only 
"  relieved  once  in  twenty-four  hours,"*  the  effect  of  which 
must  very  greatly,  on  his  own  premises,  have  enlarged  that 

Other  witnesses  before  the  Privy  Council,  while  avoid- 
ing any  such  simple  and  intelligible  statements  ;  entered  into 
details,  of  which  I  shall  soon  shew,  that  the  effect  was  a 
much  larger  difference  than  Mr.  Laing's,  with  Messrs.  Fuller, 
Long,  and  Chisholme;  and  a  much  nearer  agreement  with 
Mr.  Ramsay. 

But  further  examinations  on  the  same  subjects  took  place 
in  1790  and  1791,  before  a  Committee  of  the  House  of  Com- 
mons ;  and  one  very  eminent  and  long-experienced  planter  of 
Jamaica,  John  Wedderburne,  Esq.  was  interrogated  specifi- 
cally on  the  same  point,  the  number  of  hours  per  diem. — 
Q.  "  How  many  hours  of  the  twenty-four  do  the  negroes 
"  labour;  the  time  of  crop  excepted?"  Answer.  "  About  eleven 
"  hours."-\ 

Is  it  supposed  that  this  respectable  gentleman  spoke  from 
ignorance  ?  He  says,  in  the  same  evidence,  that  he  himself 
*•  had  the  charge  of  plantations  containing  full  5000  slaves."! 
He  was  a  witness  called  by  the  West  India  petitioners;  and 
certainly  no  enemy  of  the  system.  He  spoke  of  the  treatment 
of  the  slaves  as  in  general  very  humane  ;  and  said  "their 
situation  was  a  happy  one."§  Yet  we  find  that,  without  in- 
cluding the  crop-season,  in  which  the  time  of  labour  is  admit- 
ted by  every  witness,  and  every  writer  that  has  noticed  the 
subject,  to  be  very  largely  augmented  by  night-work,  he 
added  no  less  than  between  two  and  three  hours,  i,  e.  from  one- 
fourth  to  one-third,  to  what  his  brother  planters  of  the  same 

*  Ibid.  A.  No.  3G. 

t  Commons  Report  on  the  Slave  Trade  1790,  p.  376. 

X  Ibid.  370.  §  Ibid.  378. 

92  Of  the  Excess  of  forced  Labour 

island,  and  its  public  agent,  had  stated  to  the  Privy  Council 
as  the  true  amount  of  the  time  of  daily  labour.  He  admitted 
eleven  hours  out  of  crop  ;  whereas  they  made,  as  1  have  ob- 
served, no  exception  of  the  crop-time  j  but  must  have  meant 
to  be  understood  to  mean  eight  or  nine  hours  on  an  average  of 
all  seasons. 

And  what  is  the  length  of  the  crop  time  ?  They  themselves 
stated  it  to  be  about  five  months.*  We  must  therefore  add 
to  the  enormous  difference  between  their  account  and  Mr. 
Wedderburne's,  five- twelfths  of  the  great,  but  yet  undefined 
increment  of  labour,  during  that  portion  of  the  year. 

The  colonial  petitioners,  in  the  same  parliamentary  examin- 
ations, addressed  a  question  to  one  of  their  witnesses,  Alex- 
ander Douglas,  Esq.  then  an  eminent  West  India  merchant, 
and  with  the  evident  view  of  contradicting  Mr.  Ramsay  ; 
probably  because  Mr.  Douglas  and  he  had  long  resided  in  the 
same  island,  St.  Christopher.     The  question  was,  "  Do  you 

*  conceive  that,  at  any  time  or  season  of  the  year,  the  respite 

*  granted  to  negroes  in  the  island  of  St.  Christopher  from 
'  their  labour,  amounts  only  to  four  or  five  hours  out  of  the 
'  twenty-four?"     The  answer  was,  "  I  think  they  have  from 

*  nine  to  eleven  hours'  respite."  If  so,  from  thirteen  to  fifteen 
hours,  would  be  the  time  of  labour.  It  may  be  supposed, 
perhaps,  that  this  answer  had  reference  to  the  crop-season  j 
because  Mr.  Ramsay  had  shewn  that  the  slaves  who  then 
work  with  relays  through  the  night,  added  to  their  ordinary 
day  work,  could  not  have  more  than  four  or  five  clear  hours 
for  sleep.  But  the  witness  could  not  with  consistency  have 
taken  night-work  into  the  account,  because  he  had  immedi- 
ately before  said  he  understood  that  practice  to  have  been 
abolished  on  most  estates,  f  In  that  case,  his  estimate  in  a 
general  view  might  not  have  been  far  from  the  truth  ;  but 
those  who  led  the  respectable  witness  so  to  understand,  might 
as  truly  have  asserted  that  fires  in  the  winter  season  were  for 
the  most  part  laid  aside  in  London ;  as  the  reader  will  find, 
when  I  cite  the  evidence  on  that  part  of  the  system.  At  all 
events,  his  admission  put  those  witnesses  out  of  court  who 

*  Privy  Council  Report,  part  3,  J^itle  Jamaica,  Q.  A.  No.  36. 
t  Commons  Report  of  1790,  p.  289. 

in  point  of  Time.  93 

alleged  eight  or  nine  hours  to  be  the  limitation,  without  any 
exception  of  the  crop-time. 

The  reader,  I  trust,  already  sees,  that  the  evidence  for  the 
defendants  was  hardly  more  inconsistent  with  the  charge  of 
the  accuser,  than  with  itself.     But  let  us  proceed. 

Doctor  Collins,  who  wrote  about  ten  years  later  than  these 
accounts,  unfortunately  omits  to  state  expressly  the  ordinary 
times  of  work.  It  is  the  most  striking  defect  in  his  very 
valuable  publication  ;  and  one  of  which  I  am  at  no  loss  to  con- 
jecture the  reason  ;  but  it  may  be  clearly  collected,  that  if  he 
had  been  explicit  on  this  subject,  tender  though  healways  is  in 
touching  abuses  of  a  general  kind,  his  statement  would  have 
confirmed  or  gone  beyond  that  of  Mr.  Wedderburne  ;  for  in 
advising  the  planters  to  repair  the  huts  of  their  slaves,  so  as 
to  exclude  the  wind  and  rain,  he  urges  the  consideration  that 
they  cannot  find  time  to  do  that  work  for  themselves,  and  says, 
"  With  negroes,  hal/^  whose  time  is  devoted  to  the  service  of 
"  their  masters,  the  little  which  is  not  given  to  sleep,  must 
"  necessarily  be  employed  in  obtaining  or  cooking  their  food, 
"  which  exhausts  almost  the  whole  of  their  short  remissions 
"  from  labour."*  A  strange  contrast  this,  by  the  way,  to  the 
representations  of  the  Jamaica  gentlemen,  and  many  others 
that  I  shall  hereafter  have  to  state,  which  describe  these  poor 
beings  as  having  fifteen  hours  in  the  twenty-four  for  rest  and 
recreation  ;  and  as  having  a  superfluity  of  leisure  to  gain  wealth 
for  themselves. 

It  may  be  thought,  perhaps,  that  the  expression  half  their 
time  in  this  passage,  is  used  in  a  loose,  general  way ;  and  was 
not  meant  to  convey  the  idea  that  they  work  so  much  as 
twelve  hours  in  twenty-four  for  the  master  ;  but  in  another 
place,  when  recommending  the  substitution  of  task  work  for 
driving,  the  same  intelligent  colonist  says,  **  the  work  of 
tivelve  hours  will  be  dispatched  in  ten.-\  I  infer,  therefore,  that 
he  meant  to  be  understood  as  estimating  the  ordinary  work 
out  of  crop  at  twelve  hours  ;  and  if  so,  his  account  will  fall 
little  short  of  Mr.  Ramsay's ;  for  let  it  be  observed  that  he 
assigns  the  "  obtaining  their  food"  as  a  charge  upon  the  re- 

*  Medical  Rules,  &c.,  p.  13.5.  f  Ibid.  177. 

94  Of  the  Excess  of  forced  Labour 

maining  twelve  hours  of  their  time ;  and  their  subsistence  in 
St.  Vincent,  where  he  resided,  as  in  Jamaica,  was  in  great 
measure  derived  from  the  cultivation  of  their  provision 
grounds,  which,  like  most  other  colonial  writers,  he  does  not 
seem  to  regard  strictly  as  work  for  the  master.  It  appears, 
also,  clearly,  from  what  he  elsewhere  says  of  night  work  in 
crop-time,  that  he  did  not  take  that  important  addition  into 
account  in  his  general  estimate  of  their  daily  labour. 

But  let  us  return  to  the  Privy  Council  evidence  for  further 
demonstration  on  this  subject ;  for  though  the  witnesses  I 
have  cited  were  the  only  ones  that  thought  fit  to  state  ex- 
pressly the  amount  of  labour  by  the  number  of  hours  per 
diem,  premises  were  furnished  by  others  from  which  they 
may,  with  proper  explanations,  be  computed. 

While  the  committee  of  Privy  Council  was  prosecuting 
its  enquiries,  the  legislatures  of  Jamaica  and  of  some  other 
colonies,  were  preparing  to  parry  the  efforts  of  the  aboli- 
tionists, by  passing  some  specious,  though  impotent  laws  for 
the  protection  of  their  slaves ;  and  before  the  committee  had 
finished  its  labours,  the  first  of  those  ostensible  improvements, 
the  consolidation  act  of  Jamaica  of  1788,  arrived,  in  time  to 
give  the  colonial  party  the  benefit  of  it  in  the  report.  Mean- 
time the  standing  interrogatories  of  the  committee  had  been 
officially  transmitted  to  the  governors  of  the  different  colo- 
nies, with  instructions  to  lay  them  before  the  councils  and 
assemblies,  and  obtain  answers  to  them  from  those  bodies; 
in  consequence  of  which  answers  were  obtained  from  some  of 
them,  and  transmitted  soon  enough  to  be  inserted  in  the  same 
report.  That  of  the  council  of  Jamaica  to  Q.  A.  No.  9.  im- 
mediately follows  the  above  cited  answer  of  Messrs.  Fuller, 
Chisholme,  and  Long;  and  is  in  these  words,  "  This  is  an- 
"  swered  by  the  consolidation  act ;  to  the  directions  whereof  the 
"  practice  usually  conforms* 

Whether  the  latter  proposition  was  true,  my  readers  will  be 
soon  enabled  to  judge;  but  they  will  not  hesitate  to  believe 
that  if  not  so,  the  misrepresentation  at  least  was  not  on  the 
unfavourable    side.     Considering  the  manifest  object  of  the 

Privy  Council  Report,  part  3,  title  Jamaica,   Q.  A.   No.  0. 

in  point  of  Time.  95 

legislators,  and  of  their  agent  and  pavtizans  in  this  country,  by 
whose  solicitations  the  Act  was  passed,  and  who  immediately 
made  abundant  use  of  it  before  Parliament  and  the  British 
public,  it  is  impossible  to  suppose  that  its  ostensible  regula- 
tions were  calculated  to  discredit  the  general  existing  prac- 
tice of  slavery,  by  holding  out  limitations  of  labour  less 
humane  than  those  which  practice  had  already  established. 

The  singular  style  of  the  clause  thus  referred  to,  might  suf- 
fice to  mark  the  true  object  of  its  authors ;  for  it  is  perhaps 
the  first  law  that  ever  embodied  in  its  own  enactments  an 
averment,  implying  that  they  were  not  wanted.  The  clause 
was  in  the  following  words  :  "  Be  it  enacted,  that  every  field 
"  slave  on  such  plantation  or  settlement  shall  on  work  days  be 
"  allowed,  according  to  custom,  half  an  hour  for  breakfast,  and 
"  two  hours  for  dinner  ;  and  that  no  slave  shall  be  compelled 
"  to  any  manner  of  y?*e/J  work  upon  the  plantations  before  the 
"  hour  of  Jive  in  the  morning,  or  after  the  hour  of  seven  at 
"  night,  except  during  the  time  of  crop,  under  the  penalty  of 
"  ten  pounds,"  &.c.  * 

We  have  an  express  admission  here,  then,  from  the  highest 
authority  on  the  colonial  side,  that  the  customary  practice 
was  not  better  than  these  limitations  prescribe.  Let  us  next 
consider,  therefore,  to  what  they  amount.  It  is  the  more  im- 
portant, to  do  so,  because  the  same  are  identically  the  regu- 
lations of  labour  by  law  in  Jamaica,  and  every  other  sugar 
colony  where  assemblies  have  passed  any  Acts  on  the  subject 
at  the  present  hour :  and  I  shall  prove  that  the  practice 
now,  as  in  1788,  though  it  does  not  conform  to  these  re- 
gulations, departs  from  them  only  on  the  oppressive  or  exact- 
ing side. 

From  five  in  the  morning  till  seven  in  the  evening,  being 
fourteen  hours,  and  the  breakfast  and  dinner  respite  (if  we 
suppose  them,  for  the  present,  to  be  bonajide  intervals  of  rest) 

*  Consolidation  Slave  Act  of  December  6,  1788,  sect.  18,  printed  in  an 
appendix  to  the  same  report  of  the  Privy  Council,  part  3.  See  also  the 
Consolidation  Act  of  1792,  printed  by  Mr.  Edwards  in  his  2nd  volume, 
where  the  clause  was  re-enacted  in  the  same  words ;  and  the  same  was  the 
case  in  the  Act  of  December,  1816,  sect.  20.  still  in  force,  except  that  the 
words  "according  to  custom"  are  omitted. 

96  Of  the  Excess  of  forced  Labour 

amounting  together  only  to  two  hours  and  a  half,  there  re- 
mains, as  the  amount  of  daily  labour  in  the  cane  pieces,  or 
"  field  work"  out  of  crop-time,  eleven  hours  and  a  half 

Let  me  pause  here  again  for  a  moment,  to  compare  this 
result  with  the  statement  of  the  colonial  agent  and  eminent 
proprietors  resident  here,  who  were  examined  by  the  same 
committee.  Take  eight  hours  and  a  half  as  the  medium  be- 
tween their  terms,  and  we  have  a  subduction  of  no  less  than 
three  hours  from  the  actual  amount.  We  must  add  near 
three-eighths  to  the  quantum  alleged  by  them,  in  order  to 
make  it  agree  with  the  cotemporary  admission  of  the  legisla- 
tive council  of  their  island,  and  of  the  Act  to  which  they 

But  this  is  by  no  means  all ;  since  those  witnesses,  be  it 
remembered,  spoke,  without  any  exception  of  the  crop-time, 
the  large  augmentation  of  labour  in  which  continues  about 
five  months  in  the  year.  * 

We  have  it  thus  established  beyond  all  dispute,  that  even 
at  the  season  of  the  shortest  diurnal  labours,  they  occupy 
at  least  eleven  hours  and  a  half  of  the  twenty-four;  but  to 
reduce  them  to  this  amount,  it  must  be  supposed  that  the 
interval  of  half  an  hour  in  the  morning  and  two  hours  at 
noon,  are  really  and  entirely  periods  of  rest,  or  exemptions 
from  every  species  of  laborious  occupation  ;  which  is  not,  and 
cannot  possibly  be  the  truth.  If  they  were  so,  what  time 
would  be  left  for  the  slaves  to  work  in,  or  even  visit,  their 
own  provision  grounds,  when  near  enough  for  access  on  work- 
ing days  ? 

We  are  told  that  Saturday  afternoon  once  a  fortnight,  or 

*  Should  the  reader  be  disposed  to  give  the  Jamaica  council  some  credit 
for  candour  in  thus  discrediting  their  own  agent,  and  the  other  witnesses 
that  had  been  brought  forward  by  their  partizans  in  this  country  ;  let  him 
observe  that  the  Cor^solidation  Act  may  be  presumed  from  its  date,  De- 
cember, 1 788,  to  have  been  laid  before  the  governor  for  his  assent,  and 
officially  transmitted  by  him,  though  not  yet  received  in  this  country, 
before  the  testimony  that  I  have  cited  from  the  Privy  Council  Report 
could  be  known  in  Jamaica.  There  was  probably  a  like  priority  in  the 
answer  of  the  council,  which  is  not  dated ;  but  if  not,  the  statement  of 
the  usage  so  strangely  introduced  into  the  enactments  themselves,  had 
stopped  them  from  alleging  that  the  practice  differed  from  the  law. 

in  point  of  Time.  97 

by  some  planters,  every  week,  is  allowed  for  the  purpose  of 
cultivating  those  grounds  out  of  the  crop-season.  Let  this 
be  supposed  to  be  generally  true ;  and  that  with  the  aid  of 
Sabbath  work,  which  is  confessedly  applied  to  that  purpose, 
the  time  is  made  to  suffice  :  still  the  provisions  must  be  ga- 
thered, as  well  as  raised,  and  brought  from  the  grounds, 
which  are  generally  far  distant  from  the  negro  huts  and 
homestall,  and  not  less  so  from  the  cane-pieces  where  these 
brief  respites  begin  and  end.  Besides,  the  raw  provisions 
must  be  boiled,  roasted,  or  otherwise  prepared  for  eating. 

The  poor  slave,  be  it  always  remembered,  has  no  wife  at 
home  to  prepare  his  meals  for  him  ;  for  she,  if  he  has  one,  is 
worked  in  the  field  with  himself,  till  the  general  dismission 
of  the  gang.  If  we  should  suppose  materials  for  the  meal 
already  at  their  hut,  still  they  must  gb  there  to  dress  it ; 
and  to  go  and  return,  a  mile  or  two-  under  a  vertical  sun, 
mounting,  perhaps,  steep  acclivities,  as  is  very  usual,  in  the 
way,  is  a  bad  mode  of  recruiting  their  strength  after  six  or 
seven  hours  of  arduous  labour,  previous  to  its  renewal  for 
four  or  five  more  on  the  same  day.  During  the  half  hour  al- 
lowed for  breakfast,  such  means  of  providing  for  their  own 
necessities  are  manifestly  impracticable. 

How  then,  the  reader  may  be  curious  to  learn,  do  these 
poor  drudges  manage  as  to  their  meals  ?  In  satisfying  his 
curiosity,  I  shall,  perhaps,  stagger  his  belief.  The  breakfast 
is  often,  and  the  dinner  most  commonly,  a  meal  only  in  name. 
The  former  may  often  be  lost,  though  there  should  be  no 
deficiency  of  food,  from  want  of  time  to  prepare  it.  In  Ja- 
maica, indeed,  the  practice  is  said  generally  to  be,  to  allow 
one  negro  or  more  to  act  as  cooks  in  the  field,  for  those  who 
bring  with  them  raw  materials  for  breakfast ;  but  I  believe 
that  in  most,  or  all  other  colonies,  there  is  no  such  usage ; 
and  that  unless  the  slave  brings  to  the  field  food  ready  pre- 
pared for  eating,  he  must  fast,  from  the  want  of  means  to 
prepare  it  there,  and  of  time  to  return  for  the  purpose. 

During  the  noontide  respite,  the  more  feeble  sla\es  gene- 
rally lie  down,  to  recruit  from  their  fatigue  ;  and  the  more 
able,  commonly  go  to  work  on  their  provision  grounds  or  gar- 
dens, unless  when  they  are  too  remote  for  the  purpose. 

VOL.  II.  H 

98  Of  the  Excess  of  forced  Labour 

However  startling  these  accounts  may  be,  with  those  who 
have  had  faith  enough  in  their  colonial  friends,  to  credit  the 
strange  fables  industriously  circulated  amongst  us,  as  to  the 
ease  and  luxury  that  the  slaves  enjoy,  I  trust  the  following- 
extracts  will  be  found  sufficient  to  support  my  statements. 

That  the  field  negroes,  commonly,  return  dinnerless  to  their 
work  after  the  noontide  pause,  is  a  fact  respecting  which, 
however  extraordinary,  there  is  very  little  discordance  among 
the  West  India  witnesses  or  writers  ;  to  prove  which,  I  will 
cite  three  or  four  of  them,  who  spoke  or  wrote  at  different 
periods,  from  the  beginning  of  the  abolition  controversy  down 
to  the  present  time. 

"  They  continue  upon  the  hoe,"  said  Mr.  Beckford,  "  till 
"  dinnertime;  that  is,  until  twelve  or  one  o'clock,  and  perhaps 
"  the  medium  of  these  hours  is  the  general  time  of  vacancy 
"  all  over  the  Island  (Jamaica).  Although  this  be  called  the 
"  time  of  refection,  and  is  with  the  overseer  and  the  white 
"  people  upon  the  plantation,  that  part  of  the  day  which  is 
*'  set  apart  for  this  particular  purpose,  yet  in  this  interval,  the 
"  negroes  seldom  make  a  meal ;  but  are  rather  inclined  to  in- 
"  duloe  their  leisure  in  conversation  with  their  fellows,  or  to 
"  loiter  away  the  time  in  useless  inactivity  until  the  shell  pre- 
"  pares  them  for  a  renovation  of  toil.  They  are  allowed,"  he 
adds,  '*  for  a  nominal  dinner  one  hour  and  a  half,  but  it  gene- 
"  rally  exceeds  two  before  they  all  re-assemble."* 

"  It  may  be  proper  to  observe,"  deposed  Mr.  Tohin  of  Nevis, 
"  that  the  two  hours  at  noon  is  seldom  employed  by  a  negro 
"  in  preparing  a  regular  meal,  their  chief  meal  being  at  sup- 
"  per,  so  that  they  are  frequently  to  be  found  working  in 
"  their  grounds  during  that  interval."t 

"  They  are  allowed,"  deposed  Mr.  Willock  of  Antigua,  "  an 
"  hour  and  a  half'  for  dinner  time,  and  frequently  take 
*'  an  opportunity  during  that  interval  to  work  in  their 
"  grounds."^ 

On  this  point,  even  Mr.  Bryan  Edwards  did  not  wholly 

*  Remarks  upon  the  situation  of  Negroes  in  Jamaica,  by  Mr.  W.  Beck- 
ford,  Jun.,  p.  44,  45. 

t  Commons  Report  of  1790,  p.  276.  \  Ibid.  347. 

m  point  of  Time,  99 

suppress  the  truth,  which  his  predecessors  had  admitted ; 
though  he  qualified  it  with  his  usual  address.  "  They  are 
**  now  allowed  two  hours  of  rest  and  refreshment,  one  of 
'*  which  is  commonly  spent  in  sleep.  Many  of  them,  pre- 
'*  f erring  a  plentiful  svpper  to  a  meal  at  noon,  pass  the  hours 
*'  of  recess  in  sleep,  or  in  collecting  food  for  their  pigs  and 
"  poultry,  of  which  they  are  permitted  to  keep  as  many  as 
*' they  please :  or  perhaps  a  few  of  the  more  industrious  will 
''  employ  an  hour  in  their  provision  grounds. 

English  labourers  also,  are  permitted  to  drink  as  much 
wine  as  they  please,  provided  they  can  get  it ;  imd  it  would 
be  about  as  fair  to  insinuate  on  that  account  that  they  spend 
their  spare  time  in  bottling  their  Port  or  Madeira,  as  of  the 
common  mass  of  field  negroes,  that  they  employ  their  noon 
respite  in  collecting  food  for  their  pigs  and  poultry.  But 
under  these  artful  glosses,  the  impressive  fact  peeps  out,  that 
whether  to  reserve  food  enough  for  the  evening,  or  to  pro- 
vide it  for  the  future,  or  from  whatever  motive,  the  dinner 
is  foregone, 

"  At  half-past  twelve,"  writes  Mr.  De  La  Beche,  in  1824, 
"  a  conch  shell  is  sounded,  for  all  the  negroes  on  the  property 
"  to  take  their  dinner ;  b^it  as  dinner  is  a  meal  seldom  taken  by 
*'  the  negroes,  who  from  choice  defer  their  principal  repast  till 
*'  the  evening,  the  more  industrious  part  of  them  generally  de- 
"  vote  the  two  hours  alloived  them  by  lata  at  this  time,  to  the  cul~ 
"  tivation  of  their  provision  grounds^  a  large  proportion  of 
*'  which  is  in  this  estate  (his  own)  within  five  minutes'  walk 
''  from  their  houses." f 

*  Hist,  of  West  Indies,  vol.  ii.  p.  134. 

f  Notes,  Sec,  p.  3.  The  respectable  author  seems  here  to  have  for- 
gotten that  it  is  not  from  their  houses,  that  die  negroes  are  to  come  at  noon,  but 
from  the  cane-piece,  however  distant,  that  they  were  at  work  upon  ;  and  to 
which  they  must  return  within  the  two  hours  allowed. 

It  would  be  unjust,  however,  to  tliis  gentleman,  not  to  add  that  he  writes 
with  a  degree  of  candour  which  distinguishes  him  very  honourably  from 
the  other  West  India  planters  who  have  givfin  information  on  ihese  sub- 
jects to  the  British  public.  It  is  not  without  hesitation  that  I  add  to 
these  authorities  an  extract  from  the  work  called  Barclay  s.  The  ultra 
contempt  of  truth  and  fair  dealing,  manifest  in  every  page  of  it,  makes  the 
citation  of  it,  even    against  its  compilers,  painful  and  disgusting:  but  it 

H    2 

100  Of  the  Excess  ofjorced  Labour 

When  these  accounts  are  taken  together,  it  will  be  seen 
what  the  case  really  was  and  is.  The  poor  people,  rarely,  if 
ever,  dine;  but  during  the  two  hours  in  which  the  superin- 
tendants  retire  for  their  dinners,  the  slaves  are  released  from 
the  drivers,  and  left  to  spend  the  time  either  in  rest,  or  in 
working  individually  on  their  provision  grounds.  The  former 
is  naturally  the  choice  of  those  slaves  who,  being  the  weakest 
in  body,  are  the  most  completely  fatigued  and  exhausted  by 
six  or  seven  previous  hours  of  vigorous  exertion  ;  but  the  more 
"  industrious^"  by  which  we  may  generally  understand  in  co- 
lonial language  the  stronger  slaves,  avail  themselves  of  this 
opportunity  to  work  in  their  grounds,  when  near  enough,  or 
bring  provisions  from  them ;  thereby  perhaps  obtaining  for 
themselves  relaxations  on  the  Sabbath,  which  they  otherwise 
could  not  enjoy ;  and  sometimes  to  collect  firewood  for  their 
own  use  in  the  evening,  or  bundles  of  the  same  article,  or  of 
grass  for  sale  in  the  market,  if  they  are  fortunate  enough  to 
be  near  a  town. 

It  is  a  cruel  abuse  of  terms  to  say,  even  of  those  who  re- 
main inactive,  from  weary  nature's  irresistible  demand  for  a 
short  respite,  between  two  long  periods  of  forced  labour,  that 
they  have  so  much  time  for  themselves.  But  to  those  who  are 
less  exhausted,  the  respite  at  noon,  miscalled  dinner  time, 
gives,  we  see,  neither  food  nor  rest,  but  a  change  of  labour 
only ;  though  it  is,  I  admit,  a  change  much  for  the  better, 
because  the  drivers  are  no  longer  behind  them. 

brings  down  the  West  India  case  to  a  more  recent  period  by  two  years, 
that  Mr.  De  la  Beche's  work,  and  I  find  this  passage  in  it  (p.  319),  in  re- 
spect of  the  noon-tide  respite.  —  "  They  employ  the  time  at  their  own  con- 
"  cerns — mending  their  fences  or  hogsties,  canying  home  fire-wood,  cane- 
"  tops,  or  hog-meat,  &c.  A  feiv  roasted  plcmtains,  with  a  little  fish,  is  all 
"  thei/  seem  to  care  about  eating  in  the  middle  of  the  dui/,hveak{  and  supper 
"  being  their  chief  meals." 

Where,  when,  and  how,  do  they  procure  and  dress  the  fish  and  roast  the 
plantains  ?  Why  was  it  not  said  that  they  resort  to  taverns  for  a  lunch  of 
turtle,  and  some  glasses  of  madeira  ?  Certainly  not  because  it  is  not 
equally  true  Tliis  chef  d' aunrc  of  the  party  quite  beggars  the  invention  of 
Mr.  Edwards,  and  the  rest  who  have  endeavoured  to  varnish  over  the 
want  of  a  dinner,  and  the  labours  that  employ  the  miscalled  dinner-time. 
Yet  the  opprobrious  facts  appear. 

in  point  of  Time.  1 0 1 

When  we  arc  gravely  told  that  such  toilsome  employment 
of  an  interval  placed  between  six  hours  and  a  half  of  previous, 
and  five  hours  of  subsequent  driving,  under  the  solar  blaze, 
is  matter  of  choice,  laughter  may  be  suppressed  by  pity  and 
indignation  ;  but  a  serious  answer  surely  cannot  be  called  for. 
If  any  man  has  faith  to  believe  it,  he  must  deem  the  poor 
negroes  industrious  to  a  fault,  and  to  a  wonder ;  and  must  be 
astonished  therefore  at  the  charges  of  Major  Moodij  and  others, 
who  tell  us  that  the  love  of  ease,  of  repose,  and  refreshment  in 
the  shade,  is  so  strong  in  them,  as  to  prompt  them  to  a  vicious 
excess  in  its  indulgence,  and  to  be  wholly  indomitable  except 
by  the  driving-whip. 

But  the  slave-masters  are  here  only  at  their  ordinary  prac- 
tices on  English  credulity.  It  is  a  standing  rule  with  them, 
to  extenuate  every  oppression  which  they  can  neither  deny, 
nor  as  their  own  act  defend,  by  the  choice  of  the  poor 
slaves  themselves.  Are  they  compelled,  for  instance,  to  watch 
and  work  at  night  during  the  crop  ?  we  are  told  they  like  it ; 
and  prefer  the  crop-season  to  all  others.  Are  they  denied  a 
Sabbath  rest?  it  is  because  they  love  the  Sunday  markets, 
and  would  be  discontented  with  their  abolition.  Is  marriage 
discouraged,  and  its  rights  set  at  nought  ?  it  is  because  they 
love  polygamy  or  loose  amours.  The  impious  neglect  of  all 
religious  instruction,  was  long  excused  by  the  same  plea  :  the 
negroes  were  said  to  be  invincibly  attached  to  their  African  su- 
perstitions ;  yet  when  the  indignant  voice  of  the  British  people 
called  forth  the  Jamaica  Curates'  Bill,  they  rushed,  we  hear,  in 
multitudes  to  the  Christian  font.  Nay,  the  tearing  them  from 
their  native  homes  and  their  dearest  connections,  and  trans- 
porting them  to  a  distant  colony  for  life,  till  an  act  of  Parlia- 
ment put  a  stop  to  it,  was  also  their  singular  choice.  Even 
after  that  prohibition,  masters  and  mistresses  have  had  the  face 
to  solicit  particular  exceptions  to  it  from  Government  and  Par- 
liament, on  the  same  preposterous  suggestion ;  and  I  lament 
to  say  not  always  without  success.  While  the  shores  of  some 
of  our  islands  rang  with  the  heart-piercing  lamentations  of 
wives  and  husbands,  parents  and  children,  severed  to  meet  no 
more,  and  resistance,  by  the  desertion  of  many  of  the  devoted 
exiles,    was  su|)pressed    only   by  military   force,  the    British 

1-02  Of  the  E-xcess  of  forced  Labour 

public  and  Legislature  were  actually  led  to  believe  that  the 
wishes  of  the  banished  slaves  seconded  the  relentless  cupidity 
of  their  masters  ! 

These  strange  self-inimical  propensities,  certainly,  in  the 
point  before  us,  as  in  all  the  rest,  fall  in  admirably  with  the 
master's  convenience  and  interest.  His  drivers  and  overseers 
are  relieved  from  a  wearisome  superintendance  during  the  ex- 
cessive heat  from  twelve  to  two,  and  have  time  to  return 
from  the  field  to  their  dinner ;  while  the  slaves,  if  not  too 
much  exhausted,  are  performing  work  for  the  supply  of  their 
own  urgent  necessities,  in  ease  of  the  master's  purse. 

The  employment  of  the  half  hour  in  the  morning,  for  break- 
fast, is  more  variously  represented  ;  I  mean  as  to  the  actuality 
of  the  meal,  or  the  want  of  it ;  and  I  believe  it  really  va- 
ries much  in  different  colonies,  and  also  on  different  plan- 
tations. I  will  give  a  few  extracts  from  the  colonial  writers 
and  witnesses  on  this  subject  also ;  leaving  the  reader  to  form 
his  own  conclusions  from  them,  whether  the  breakfast  is  the 
most  commonly,  nominal,  or  real. 

Let  us  first  hear  the  comprehensive  and  very  authoritative 
testimony  of  Dt.  Colhns.  "  At  breakfast  it  is  customary  to 
"  indulge  the  gang  with  half  an  hour,  which  is  rather  taken  as 
"  an  intermissioti  of  labour,  than  for  a  meal;  as  negroes  seldom 
'*  appl^  it  to  that  purpose;  yet  it  is  too  salutary  a  practice  to 
*•  be  discontinued ;  for  it  is  a  loss  of  time  that  will  be  easily  re- 
"  paired  by  their  invigorated  efforts.  Those  who  have  in- 
"  fants,"  he  adds,  "  should  be  allowed  an  hour  to  repair  to 
"  the  nursery  to  give  them  the  breast."  * 

Dr.  Collins,  be  it  observed,  speaks  in, general  of  all  the 
sugar  colonies ;  and  his  humane  suggestions  are  addressed  to 
the  proprietors  of  them  all.  That  he  sincerely  aimed  at  im- 
provements cannot  be  doubted  ;  yet  all,  we  see,  that  he  ven- 
tures to  recommend,  is  continuing  the  suspension  of  labour, 
not  supplying  the  meal ;  and  he  recommends  the  improve- 
ment solely  on  an  econ'omical  ground ;  admitting  it  to  be,  in  a 
view  to  the  meal  itself,  a  mere  loss  of  time. 

His  advice  as  to  mothers  who  have  suckling  infants,  may 

*  Practical  Rules,  p.  188-9. 

in  point  of  Time.  103 

require  an  explanatory  comment.  That  their  labour  in  the 
field  may  not  be  lost  or  interrupted,  such  infants  are  consigned, 
in  the  gross,  to  the  care  of  a  plantation  dry-nurse  at  the  negro 
huts  or  honiestall,  in  a  receptacle  which  he  here  dignifies  by 
the  name  of  a  nursery  ;  and  we  see  that  he  regards  an  hour's 
interval  as  necessary  to  enable  the  poor  infants  to  receive  the 
breakfast  which  Nature  has  prepared  for  them  in  the  break- 
fastless  mother.  No  more  can  be  necessary  to  shew  that  the 
adult  slaves  cannot  possibly  have  time  to  return  and  prepare 
it  for  themselves. 

Mr.  ToBiN,  who  was  certainly  one  of  the  most  liberal  of 
planters,  assuming  his  statements  of  his  own  practice  to  be 
impartial,  but  a  violent  public  antagonist  of  Mr.  Ramsay, 
said,  "  Upon  many  estates,  and  upon  all  of  which  I  had  the 
"  direction,  they  had  out  of  crop  time  a  regular  breakfast,  of  a 
"  biscuit  and  a  proportion  of  molasses  and  water,  which  in 
*'  wet  and  rainy  weather  was  qualified  with  rum."*  This  wit- 
ness spoke  of  the  island  of  Nevis. 

Mr.  Thomas,  speaking  of  Nevis  also,  said,  "  About  nine 
"  they  broke  up  for  the  purpose  of  breakfasting,  which  was 
**  generally  taken  in  the  field,  in  preference  of  going  to  and 
"  from  their  houses"  (a  very  necessary  preference,  certainly), 
and  for  this  purpose,  he  added,  "  everi/  good-i)tclined  negro 
*'  generally  carried  his  breakfast  with  him."f  Unfortunately 
he  did  not  state  what  the  proportion  of  these  "  good  inclined 
''  negroes"  was  ;  and  what  was  the  lot  of  the  rest.  Had  the 
practice  been  general  at  Nevis,  Mr.  Tobin  would  hardly  have 
spoken  as  he  did. 

Mr.  WiLLocK,  of  Antigua,  a  master  of  distinguished  libe- 
rality, mentioned  a  peculiarity  of  practice  on  his  estate  ;  that 
of  his  having  generally  fed  about  one-third  of  his  ic hole  gang 
on  what  is  called  "  the  pot ;"  i.  e.  food  prepared  and  dressed 
for  them  by  the  master  ;  and  gave  the  following  reason  for  it. 
"  My  reason  for  feeding  so  many  out  of  the  pot,  was  a  direc- 
"  tion  given  to  the  overseers,  that  when  the  negroes  went  to 
"  their  breakfast  in  the  field,  if  any  negro  did  not  bring  some- 
*'  thing  to  eat,  I  immediately  took  away  his  allowance,  and 
"  fed  him  from  the  pot.     Though  the  quantity  of  provisions," 

*  Commons  Report  of  1790,  p.  297.  f  Ibid.  354. 

104  Of  the  Excess  of  forced  Labour 

he  added,  "  they  got  from  being  fed  from  the  pot,  was  much 
"  more,  yet  it  was  a  disgrace  to  them,  and  they  dishked  it  ex- 
"  ceedingly,  as  they  conceived  themselves  treated  like  new 
"  negroes.*  One-third  of  his  negroes,  therefore,  were  kept 
from  being  breakfastless  only  by  this  humane  but  extraordinary 

I  do  not  wish  my  readers  to  infer  from  these  authorities, 
strong  and  various  though  they  are,  that  the  field  negroes 
always,  or  very  generally,  work  fasting  through  the  day,  and 
that  their  supper  after  their  dismission  from  the  labours  of  the 
field  is  their  only  meal.  Their  oppression,  in  respect  of  food, 
will  be  a  separate  subject  of  discussion  in  a  subsequent 
chapter;  and  it  well  then,  I  doubt  not,  appear  to  the  convic- 
tion of  my  readers,  that  in  many,  or  most  of  the  colonies,  if 
they  eat  more  than  once  in  the  twenty-four  hours,  it  must  be 
very  sparingly  indeed  ;  at  least,  where  they  wholly  or  chiefly 
depend  on  the  master's  weekly  allowances  for  support.  I 
have  cited  these  colonial  testimonies  here,  only  lest  un- 
informed readers  should  doubt  the  possibility  of  the  meal- 
time respites  being  diverted  from  their  nominal  use,  and  being 
periods  of  actual  labour,  well  attested  though  we  have 
seen  the  fact  to  be,  by  the  apologists  of  the  system.  I  feel 
myself  warranted  by  so  many  concurrent  and  unexceptionable 
authorities,  to  affirm,  what  I  believe  the  fact  to  be,  that  though 
the  practice  as  to  breakfasts  varies  in  different  colonies,  and 
on  different  estates  in  the  same  colony,  the  dinner  is,  gene- 
rally speaking,  everywhere  dispensed  with;  but  whether  from 
choice  or  necessity,  my  readers  will  be  better  enabled  to  judge, 
when  informed  of  the  ordinal y  practice  as  to  the  supply 
and  preparation  of  food.  Meantime  let  us  return  to  that  im- 
portant topic,  the  hours  of  daily  labour. 

Hitherto  I  have  proceeded  on  the  supposition  that  the  la- 
bours of  the  slaves  out  of  crop-time  may,  in  a  proper  and 
strict  sense,  be  said  to  begin  at  five  in  the  morning,  and  end 
at  seven  in  the  evening,  according  to  the  alleged  effect  of  the 
limitations  in  the  colonial  meliorating  acts,  to  which,  as  we 
are  assured  by  the  legislators  who  made  them,  and  by  the 

Commons  Report  of  1790,  p.  247. 

in  point  of  Time.  105 

recitals  and  averments  of  the  acts  themselves,  the  practice 

But  what,  by  the  express  purview  of  these  laws,  is  the 
work  to  which  the  limitations  apply  ?  It  is  only  actual  la- 
bour in  the  field :  in  other  words,  that  work  which  the  col- 
lected gang  performs  under  the  drivers,  from  the  morning 
muster  to  the  evening  dismissal,  which  is  limited,  as  we  have 
seen,  to  fourteen  hours,  with  intervals  of  two  hours  and  a 
half.  They  are  not  sooner  or  later  to  be  "  compelled  to  any 
"  manner  of  field-work,  except  in  the  crop-season." 

Are  the  remaining  ten  hours  and  a  half  of  the  twenty-four, 
then,  noon-work  excepted,  times  of  rest  or  repose  ?  Clearly 
not;  for  before  the  morning- work  can  begin,  the  negroes 
must  be  roused  from  their  sleep,  and  "  turned  out,"  as 
it  is  called,  from  their  huts ;  and  every  individual  must 
proceed  to,  and  assemble  at  the  spot,  however  distant,  of  ap- 
pointed work.  Many,  no  doubt,  to  avoid  the  peril  of  tardiness, 
arrive  before  the  rest;  for  there  the  driver  stands  with  his 
whip,  to  inflict  instant  flagellation  on  those  who  come  too  late ; 
and  if  the  gang  is  to  be  put  in  line  at  five  o'clock,  the  bell, 
or  conch-shell,  or  far-resounding  whip,  variously  used  to 
awaken  the  slaves,  must  give  their  awful  summons  long 
before.  The  cane-piece  where  they  are  to  be  worked  for 
the  day,  may  be  at  a  great  distance  from  the  huts;  sometimes 
on  large  estates  from  one  to  two  miles  ;  and  very  commonly 
they  have  a  steep  hill  to  ascend  ;  for  most  estates,  at  least  in 
the  smaller  islands,  range  from  the  sea  side  or  low  grounds,  to 
a  considerable  height  on  the  side  of  a  high  hill  or  mountain  ; 
and  the  cluster  of  houses  called  the  negro-houses,  is  commonly 
placed  in  the  lower  situations,  near  the  manager's  house  and 
the  works.  On  the  whole,  I  think  it  a  probable  calculation, 
that  an  hour,  or  nearly  that  time,  must  intervene  on  an  average 
between  the  rousing  the  negroes  from  their  sleep,  and  their 
setting;  to  work  in  the  field. 

Nor  is  this  all ;  for  so  assiduous  are  the  planters  that  the 
work  should  begin  as  soon  as  there  is  light  enough  for  the 
purpose,  that  the  bell  or  other  call  is  always  sounded  at  the 
earliest  peep  of  dawn  ;  nay  often  still  sooner,  as  may  suffi- 
ciently appear  by  the  following  extract  from  Dr.  Collins. 

"  In  turning  out   in  the   morning,"   says  that  long-cxpc- 

10(3  Of  the  Excess  of  forced  Labour 

rienced  planter,  "  it  is  usual  to  prepare  your  negroes  by  the 
"  morning-  bell,  which  by  the  carelessness  of  the  watchman, 
"  or  by  the  difficulty  of  distinguishing  between  the  light  of 
"  the  moon,  and  the  first  approach  of  morning,  is  rung  an 
"  hour  or  two  earlier  than  it  ought  to  be.  This  you  should 
"  prevent,  by  directing  it  not  to  be  rung,  until  the  twilight  is 
"  very  well  ascertained."* 

*  Practical  Rules,  p.  88. 

Two  very  recent  authorities  may  suffice  to  shew  that  the  negroes  are 
still  called  out  before  day-break.  The  first  is  a  work  called  Marly, 
cr  a  Phnifer's  Life  in  Jamaica,  a  new  publication  on  the  colonial  side, 
in  the  catching  form  of  a  novel.  Should  my  right  to  quote  him  as 
an  antagonist  be  doubted,  I  refer  to  his  sixteenth  chapter,  in  which  the 
novellist  drops  his  mask,  and  appears  in  his  true  character,  as  a  serious 
and  zealous  apologist  of  slavery,  and  champion  of  the  colonial  cause. 
From  his  grapliic  delineations  of  scenery  and  manners,  no  man  who  has 
seen  the  West  Indies  will  doubt  of  his  having  been  resident  there. 

When  describing  his  hero's  initiation  in  the  duties  of  a  plantation  book- 
keeper, he  says  :  — 

"  Next  morning  Marly  was  awakened  out  of  a  dream  of  delight,  &c., 
"  by  the  firing  of  the  driver  s  whip  ;" — "  he  started  from  his  bed,  but  day  had 
"  not  yet  glimmered  from  the  East."  (p.  62.)  Again  —  "  Next  morning, 
"  before  day  broke,  the  firing,  or  smacking,  of  the  driver  s  whip  awakened 
"  Marly,  when  he  started  from  his  pillow,"  &c.  (p.  49.) 

The  other  recently  published  authority  to  which  I  refer,  is  no  novel ; 
but  that  grave  defence  of  slavery  by  Mr.  Commissioner  Dwarris,  which  I 
have  before  cited,  in  a  letter  to  the  Right  Honourable  Henry  Gonlbiirn, 
Chancellor  of  the  Exchequer.  "  It  is  said,"  observes  Mr.  Dwarris,  "  that 
"  the  slaves  begin  their  toil  before  day ;  and  the  assertion  is  true  ;  but  in 
"  such  a  climate,  it  is  no  hardship  to  begin  their  work  in  the  cool  of  the 
"  morning.  It  ought,"  he  adds,  "  in  common  candour,  at  the  same  time, 
"  to  have  been  stated,  that  in  the  countries  of  which  we  are  now  speaking, 
"  all  classes  rise  at  gunfire ;  i.  e.  at  five  o'clock  in  the  morning."  (p.  17.) 

A  modest  appeal  to  candour  this,  no  doubt !  The  whites  certainly  do, 
in  general,  rise  very  early,  especially  if  careful  of  their  health ;  but  it  is  to 
enjoy  the  cool  air,  and  to  take  exercise  before  the  sun  rises ;  not  to  increase 
the  length  of  daily  toil.  As  to  the  field-negroes,  they  are  so  far  from  being 
called  out  before  day,  for  health  or  comfort,  that  Dr.  Collins,  and  all 
other  authorities  on  the  subject,  notice  their  great  sensibility  to  sufferings 
from  cold,  and  regard  the  chilling  effects  of  their  being  turned  out  long 
before  sun-rise,  as  one  great  source  of  their  diseases.  If  this  candid  writer 
thinks  it  humane  to  work  negroes  in  the  earliest  dawn  because  it  is  cold, 
his  abhorrence  of  the   intolerable  long-continued  toils  they  arc   afterwards 

in  punii  of  Time.  107 

Another  extract  from  Mr.  De  La  Beche,  will  shew  that  the 
poor  weary,  and  drowsy  slave,  is  likely  not  to  demur  at  the 
rousing  call,  however  premature ;  but  to  spring  from  his  pallet 
at  the  first  sound  of  the  plantation  bell  or  whip,  and  make  all 
haste  to  the  field. 

"  It  is  much  to  be  regretted,"  he  says,  "  that  considerable 
"  martinetism  exists  on  some  properties,  with  regard  to  the 
"  time  when  the  negroes  ought  to  assemble  in  the  morning. 
"  Then  it  is  that  the  negroes  sufter  most  from  the  driver's 
"  whip ;  for  he  unfortunately  can  on  his  own  authority  in- 
"  flict  punishment  on  those  who  are  not  in  time.'"* 

Not  a  few  of  the  colonial  witnesses  and  writers  have  at- 
tempted to  subtract  an  hoixr  at  least  from  the  morning's 
field-work,  by  representing  its  commencement  to  be  at  six 
o'clock,  instead  of  five  ;  but  in  a  way  inconsistent  not  only 
with  what  I  have  shown  to  be  the  actual  practice,  but  with 
astronomical  and  geographical  truth. 

"  About  six  o'clock  in  the  morning,"  said  one  of  them, 
"  which  is  generally  about  day-light,  the  whole  gang  are  ex- 
"  pected  to  appear  in  the  field  ;  the  list  was  then  called  over, 
"  and  absentees  were  marked  down."f 

*'  With  respect  to  the  hours,"  said  another,  "  the  negroes  are 
"  generally  called  into  the  field  by  the  ringing  of  a  bell  about 
"  daicn  of  day,  which,  in  a  latitude  where  the  days  and  nights 
"  are  so  nearly  equal,  is  generally  about  six  o'clock. "J 

On  the  same  physical  premises  it  was  of  course  added,  that 
day-light  ended  at  six,  and  that  the  slaves  remained  no  later 
in  the  field ;  and  some  of  the  colonial  writers  I  think  arraigned 
the  abolitionists  of  having  asserted,  what  the  laws  of  nature 
made  impos.!;ible,  when  they  stated  the  true  daily  commence- 
ment and  termination  of  the  field-work. 

It  may  naturally  be  supposed  that  the  first  Jamaica  Conso- 

subjected  to  in  that  broiling  climate  through  the  day,  ought  surely  to  exceed 
my  own.  But  I  quote  him  only  for  the  fact.  As  it  is  true  that  "  the 
"  slaves  still  begin  their  toil  before  dat/Iighf,"  they  must  of  course  be  still  roused 
and  turned  out   before  the  first  peep  of  dawn. 

*  Notes  on  the  present  Condition  of  the  Slaves  in  Jamaica,  p.  19. 

t  Commons  Report  of  1790,  p.  247  ;  Evidence  of  Mr.  Thomas  of  Nevis. 

I  Ibid.  p.  266  ;  Evidence  of  Mr.  Tobin. 

108  Of  the  Excess  of  forced  Labour 

lidation  Act  disposed  for  ever  of  this  part  of  the  controversy. 
In  making  five  and  seven  the  morning  and  evening  limits  of 
field-work  out  of  crop-time,  i.  e.  in  a  season  comprising  the 
shortest  days,  and  stating  that  this  was  conformable  to  gene- 
ral custom,  it  should  have  put  an  end  both  to  the  astronomi- 
cal and  practical  question. 

But  the  champions  of  slavery  are  far  too  stout  to  quail 
under  such  knock-down  blows,  whether  given  by  their  foes 
or  fellow-combatants;  and  they  now  again  with  all  their  pris- 
tine intrepidity  attempt  to  cut  off  two  hours  from  the  day,  in 
order  to  reduce  by  the  same  amount  the  actual  labour  of  the 
slaves.  The  courageous  Mr.  M'Queen  assures  us,  in  what  he 
calls  "  a  plain  and  undeniable  statement,  that  the  days  and 
*'  nights  in  our  West  India  islands  are  so  nearly  equal,  that 
"  the  difference  is  not  worth  taking  into  account,  and  may 
"  be  taken  at  tivehe  hours  each;''*  from  which  and  other  pre- 
mises, equally  undeniable,  he  concludes,  and  expressly  asserts, 
that  "  no  negro  out  of  crop  xvorks  above  nine  hours." 

Though  this  writer  is  so  strongly  accredited  to  us  by  all  the 
colonies,  that  his  voice  may  be  fairly  considered  as  theirs,  I 
might  probably  leave  him  here  to  settle  the  small  difference 
of  two  hours  and  a  half  between  himself  and  his  munificent 
patrons,  the  legislators  of  Jamaica,  if  this  revival  of  ex- 
ploded fictions  stood  on  his  authority  alone.  But  the  Coun- 
cil of  Barbadoes,  in  a  nearly  cotemporary  Report,  has  stated, 
that  "  the  slaves  do  not  work  more  than  nine  hours  for  the  day 
*'  at  that  season  of  the  year  when  the  days  are  short,  and  nine 
*'  hours  and  a  half  when  the  days  are  long  ;"  from  which  re- 
ference to  the  length  of  days,  and  the  near  correspondence 
with  Mr.  M'Queen's  conclusion,  it  may  be  fairly  presumed, 
that  his  ''  undeniable"  premises  were  in  view,  and  tacitly  as- 
sumed by  that  honourable  Board.f 

The  Assembly  of  Jamaica,  also,  in  the  latest  report  it  has 
favoured  us  with  on  this  subject  of  slave  labour,  has  reduced 
its  amount  out  of  crop,  not  indeed  to  nine  hours,  but  to  ten, 
notwithstanding  the  evidence  of  its  renewed  and  still  subsist- 
iiior  law. 

*   West  India  Colonies,  p.  257. 

t  Printed  Report  of  the  Council  of  Barbadoes,   1824,  p.  108. 

in  point  of  Time,  109 

"  Although  by  the  consolidated  slave  law,  the  master  may 
"  call  for  fourteen  hours'  labour  in  the  field,  deducting  one 
"  half  hour  for  breakfast,  and  two  hours  for  dinner,  leaving 
"  of  course  eleven  hours  and  a  half  for  work  ;  yet  in  practice, 
"  the  time  for  labour  in  summer  is  one  hour,  and  in  winter 
"  two  hours,  less  than  might  be  exacted  by  law ;  so  that  the 
"  labourer  only  works  on  an  average  ten  hours  daily,  and  has 
"  fourteen  for  meals,  relaxation,  and  rest.'"* 

How  remote  from  truth  the  last  clause  is,  my  readers  have 
been  already  enabled  to  judge  :  but  my  business  at  present  is 
with  the  field-work  under  the  drivers,  the  only  subject  of 
limitation  ;  and  though  the  report  itself,  in  reducing  the  prac- 
tice to  ten  hours,  does  not  expressly  say  that  it  begins  and 
ends  with  the  daylight,  the  examinations  annexed,  and  re- 
ferred to,  shew  clearly  that  such  an  impression  was  meant  to 
be  conveyed  ;  and  also  that  the  calculation  was  founded  on 
astronomical  data  grossly  erroneous,  though  less  so  than  those 
of  Mr.  M' Queen.  See  an  important  extract  from  those  exa- 
minations given  in  a  former  chapter  (p.  36-7,)  the  first  pa- 
ragraph of  which  it  will  be  convenient  to  place  again  here 
under  the  eye  of  the  reader. 

*'  As  to  the  hours  of  labour,  when  the  examinant  came  to 
"  the  island,  the  slaves  were  turned  out  full  one  hour  before 
"  day,  and  kept  out  as  long  after  dark.  Their  breakfast  was 
''  always  cooked  for  them,  and  they  were  allowed  half  an 
"  hour  to  eat  it,  and  two  hours  to  go  home  to  their  dinner. 
"  As  the  length  of  the  days  on  an  average  through  the  year  in 
"  this  climate,  including  twilight,  is  about  ticelve  hours  and  a 
"  half,  so  the  slave  then  worked  twelve  hours  in  the  twenty- 
"  four.  At  present,  the  same  time  is  allowed  for  breakfast  and 
"  dinner,  but  the  slaves,  as  far  as  examinant  sees,  are  only 
"  required  to  work  in  the  field  in  daylight,  and  consequently, 
*'  they  work  only  ten  hours  in  the  twenty-four." 

I  will  not  suppose  the  respectable  witness  to  have  meant 
any  thing  unfair,  either  by  the  qualification,  ''  as  far  as  exanii- 
"  nant  sees,"  or  by  his  changes  of  phraseology  in  the  two  sub- 
jects  of  comparison,    from  "  fumed   out,  and  kept  out,"'   to 

Printed  Papers  of  181G,     already  cited,)  p.  25. 

110  Of  the  Excess  of  forced  Labour 

"  worked,  and  required  to  work  in  the  f  eld,"  or  from  *'  length 
''  of  the  daj/s,"  to  "  daylight."  They  must  have  been  used 
respectively  in  the  same  sense,  or  the  comparison  would  be 
plainly  idle,  and  the  effect  wholly  deceptions. 

But  what  he,  and  the  Committee  in  adopting  his  calcula- 
tions, must  be  understood  to  mean,  is  this,  that  the  "  length 
*'  of  the  day,  or  daylight,  including  the  twilight,"  is  on  an 
average  only  twelve  hours  and  a  half;  which  deducting  the 
allowance  of  two  hours  and  a  half  for  meal-times,  leaves  ten 
clear  hours  of  field-woi'k ;  and  that  the  former  excess  arose 
from  the  working  an  hour  before  the  morning,  and  an  hour 
after  the  evenino;,  twilio-ht. 

The  fallacy  here  lies  in  the  alleged  duration  of  the  twilight, 
which  the  witness  rightly  and  expressly  included  in  the  day- 
light or  length  of  days  ;  whereas  the  other  authorities  I  have 
cited  allow  for  it  nothing  at  all ;  but  strangely  shorten  the  day 
to  the  time  that  the  sun  is  above  the  horizon,  and  treat  all  the 
rest  as 

Now,  though  it  is  true,  that  the  twilight  in  the  West  Indies 
is  much  shorter  at  all  seasons  than  here,  to  say  that  it  is  so 
short  on  a  medium,  or  at  any  season,  taking  the  morning  and 
evening  together,  as  not  to  make  a  very  considerable  and  for- 
midable addition  to  the  daily  labour  of  a  hard-worked  slave, 
woidd  be  a  proposition  equally  unfeeling  and  false. 

It  would  be  so,  even  were  the  daily  addition  no  more  than 
half  an  hour,  i.  <?.  one  quarter  of  an  hour  for  each  twilight, 
according  to  this  strange  computation  ;  but  in  this  instance 
the  enormity  of  the  misrepresentations  I  have  to  combat,  may 
be  shewn  by  witnesses  who  can  neither  be  silenced  nor  tra- 
duced ;  even  those  of  whom  it  is  said,  "  their  line  is  gone  out 
"  through  all  the  earth,  and  their  words  to  the  end  of  the 
"  world  ;  and  that  there  is  no  speech  or  language  where  their 
"  voice  is  not  heard."  The  heavenly  luminaries  shall  prove 
for  me,  that  my  opponents,  to  extenuate  their  oppressions, 
have  wrested  from  the  tropical  day  a  sixth  part  of  its  legiti- 
mate domains. 

As  to  the  time,  during  which,  on  an  annual  average  the  sun 
is  above  the  horizon,  there  is  no  disagreement  between  us  ; 
and  if  there  were,  I  could  not  suppose  any  of  my  readers  so 
ill-informed,  as  not  at  once  to  decide  it  for  tiiemselves.     The 

in  point  of  Time.  Ill 

average  time  is  just  twelve  hours.  Neither  can  it  be  necessary 
to  shew,  that  in  all  climates,  and  at  all  times,  the  morning 
and  evening  twilights  are  of  equal  duration.  The  only  point, 
therefore,  on  which  doubt  can  arise,  is  their  true  medium 
length,  taking  together  the  different  seasons  of  the  year. 
Now,  the  latitude  being  given,  (which  in  the  central  parts  of 
Jamaica  is  about  eighteen  degrees  north,  and  in  our  other 
islands,  too  near  that  parallel  to  be  worth  a  separate  calcula- 
tion,) many  of  my  readers  will  be  able  to  compute  the  true 
duration  of  twilight  for  themselves,  on  the  known  astronomical 
rule,  that  it  every  where  begins  in  the  morning  when  the  sun 
approaches  within  eighteen  degrees  of  the  horizon,  and  ends 
when  the  sun  has  dipped  eighteen  degrees  below  it,  in  the 
evening.  For  the  assistance  of  those,  who,  like  myself  are 
not  expert  mathematicians,  I  have  asked  the  favour  of  a  friend, 
who  is  very  eminently  such,  to  calculate  for  me  what  is  the 
shortest,  and  what  the  longest  duration  of  twilight  in  latitude 
eighteen  north,  at  different  seasons  ;  and  to  compute  from  them 
its  medium  duration  throughout  the  year.  He  has  kindly  done 
so  ;  and  having  submitted  his  solutions  of  those  problems  to 
another  friend,  celebrated  for  his  mathematical  skill,  who  has 
confirmed  them,  I  can  safely  vouch  for  their  accuracy,  as  con- 
tained in  a  note  below.* 

The  general  result,  it  will  be  seen,  is  that  instead  of  the 
twilight  being  on  an  average  a  quarter  of  an  hour  long,  so  as 

*  The  shortest  twilight  in  18  deg.  north,  is  when  the  sun's  declination 
is  2  deg.  24  min.  south,  that  is  to  say,  a  few  days  before  the  vernal  and  a 
few  days  after  the  autumnal  equinox,  about  the  13th  March,  and  29th  Sep- 
tember. It  then  commences  at  11  minutes  before  five  in  the  morning,  and 
the  sun  rises  at  3  min.  after  6.  Consequently  its  duration  is  1  hour  and  14 
min.,  and  that  of  the  morning  and  evening  taken  together,  2  hours  and 
28  min. 

The  longest  twilight  in  the  same  latitude,  viz.  at  the  summer  solstice, 
June  20th,  is  1  hour  and  25  min. ;  for  it  begins  at  3  min.  after  4,  and  the 
sun  rises  at  28  min.  after  5. 

The  medium  duration  from  29th  September  to  13th  March,  is  1  hour,  17i 
min.  morning  and  evening,  or  together  2  hours,  35  min. 

The  medium  from  13th  March  to  the  29th  September,  is  1  hour,  19i  min. 
morning  and  evening,  or  2  hours,  39  min.  daily. 

The  medium  duration  throughout  the  year,  is  1  hour  and  18  min.  morn- 
ing and  evening,  or  2  hours.  36  min.  daily. 

112  Of  the  Exceas  of  forced  Labour 

to  make  the  length  of  the  day,  both  twilights  included,  only 
twelve  hours  and  a  half;  it  is,  when  shortest,  one  hour  and 
fourteen  minutes,  and  on  a  medium,  one  hour  and  eighteen 
minutes ;  and  taking  the  morning  and  evening  together,  two 
hours  and  thirty-six  minutes ;  making  the  average  length  of 
the  days  two  hours  and  thirty-six  minutes  throughout  the 
year.     The  difference,  consequently  is  about  five  to  one. 

Should  it  be  said,  that  the  Jamaica  Report,  in  the  passage 
extracted,  did  not  mean  to  speak  of  the  twilight  with  astrono- 
mical correctness  ;  but  had  in  view  only  such  a  portion  of  it 
as  gives  light  enough  for  the  labours  of  the  field  ;  I  reply,  that 
this  explanation  cannot  be  offered  for  those  who  rejected  the 
twilight  altogether,  as  most  of  the  West  India  witnesses  and 
writers  have  done,  speaking  of  twelve  hours  in  the  twenty-four 
as  flight;  nor  could  any  impossibility  of  turning  out  or  working 
the  slaves  in  even  the  faintest  twilight,  have  been  in  contem- 
plation by  the  Jamaica  examinants  and  reporters,  since  we 
are  told  by  them,  "  that  it  was  formerly  done  during  a  full 
"  hour  in  the  dark."  But  I  desire  not  to  quarrel  with  my 
opponents  about  terms  ;  and  am  ready  to  give  them  the  full 
benefit  of  any  possible  explanation,  consistent  with  the  facts 
of  the  case. 

I  admit  that  some  portion  of  the  twilight,  from  its  com- 
mencement in  the  morning,  and  previous  to  its  termination  in 
the  evening,  is  but  a  scarcely  discernible  glimmering,  and  a 
larger  portion  of  it  but  a  medium  between  clear  light  and 
darkness ;  though  I  cannot  admit  that  the  utmost  faintness  of 
its  light  forms  a  necessary  obstacle  to  field-work,  still  less  to 
the  turning  out  the  slaves  from  their  huts,  or  their  proceeding 
to  the  often  distant  place  of  labour ;  for  this,  as  has  already  been 
shewn,  would  be  untrue,  and  inconsistent  with  what  is  ac- 
knowledged to  be,  or  what  is  equally  conclusive,  to  have  for- 
merly been,  the  practice.  Dr.  Collins,  too,  did  not  caution  his 
brother  planters  against  an  impussibk  fault,  when  he  advised 
them  not  to  turn  out  their  slaves  before  the  twilight  was  well 
ascertained  ;  or  untruly  allege  that  the  bell  was  sometimes 
rung  for  that  purpose  an  hour  or  two  before  even  the  first 
approach  of  morning  ;*  nor  will  Mr.  Divarris  be  supposed 

*  See  supra,  p.  106. 

in  point  of  Time.  1 1 3 

to  have  falsely  magnified  a  hardship  he  wished  to  extenuate, 
in  telling  us  that  the  slaves  still  "  begin  their  toil  before  day."* 
I  will  nevertheless  suppose,  for  argument  sake,  that  there 
is  a  portion  of  twilight,  during  which  the  slaves  cannot  have 
light  enough  either  to  work  nor  walk  by  ;  or  what  will  serve 
as  well,  I  will  suppose  that  the  planters  voluntarily  abstain 
from  compelling  them  to  do  so,  when  the  light  is  not  clear 
enough  for  every  species  of  agricultural  labour  known  in  this 

I  am  sorry  that  the  proportion  of  the  twilight  in  that  degree 
obscure,  cannot  be  ascertained  like  the  duration  of  the  whole, 
by  mathematical  demonstration.  It  can  be  known  only  by 
experience ;  and  experience  in  a  climate  like  our  own,  where 
clouds  and  rain,  or  fogs  and  mist  so  generally  darken  the 
morning  and  evening  atmosphere,  and  are  rarely  absent  from 
the  skirts  of  the  horizon,  when  the  sun  nearly  approaches  or 
actually  surmounts  it,  can  teach  us  little  or  nothing  in  respect 
of  such  a  climate  as  that  of  our  West  India  islands,  where  the 
sun  commonly  rises  and  sets  with  cloudless  splendour,  and 
every  twilight  ray  that  precedes  his  appearance,  or  follows  his 
descent,  is  shot  upwards  into  an  atmosphere  so  clear  as  to  lose 
none  of  its  reflection  and  luminous  effect.  All  we  can  with 
certainty  infer  is,  that  whatever  proportion  the  adequate  de- 
gree of  crepuscular  light,  bears  to  the  inadequate  in  England, 
that  proportion  must  be  in  a  very  high  degree  greater  in  the 
West  India  islands. 

But  there  are  means  by  -which  we  may  satisfactorily  arrive 
at  some  approximation  to  the  truth,  without  departing  from 
my  rule  of  using  alone  the  evidence  of  colonial  opponents. 
I  shall  be  able  at  least  to  shew,  that  statements  which  reduce 
the  twilight,  even  supposing  what  I  have  called  adequate  twi- 
light only  was  meant,  to  a  quarter  of  an  hour,  were  extrava- 
gantly wide  of  the  truth. 

In  the  first  place,  the  same  report  which  tells  us  that  the 
slaves  work  only  in  "  daij-light"  which  of  course  could  be 
meant  to  comprise  adequate  twilight  only,  tells  us  elsewhere 
that  the  hours  of  labour  still,  are  those  limited  by  the  Conso- 
lidation law.     The  Honorable  James  Stewart,  Esq.  a  proprie- 

*  See  supra,  p.  106. 
VOL.    11.  1 

114  Of  the  Excess  of  forced  Labour 

tor,  thirty  years  resident  in  the  island,  and  member  of  the 
Assembly,  being  interrogated  as  to  improvements  within  that 
period,  in  respect  of  food,  clothing,  hours  of  labour,  and 
punishment,  answered  as  to  all  but  labour,  in  a  way  "that  shewed 
him  to  have  been  sufficiently  well-disposed  to  do  credit  to  the 
existing  system,  and  to  bring  forward  every  assignable  im- 
provement within  his  long  experience ;  but  in  respect  of  the 
point  in  question,  his  words  are,  "  The  hours  of  labour  are  re- 
"  gulated  by  the  Consolidated  Slave  Laiv,  to  which  examinant 
"  begs  leave  to  refer  the  Committee ;  and  he  believes  the  slaves  are 
"  allowed  fullf/  the  time  prescribed  by  it  for  refreshment  and 
"  rest."  * 

I  will  not  stop  to  shew  how  decidedly  the  Committee  and 
the  House  were  here  defeated  by  their  own  witness  on  the 
substantive  point,  the  alleged  abatement,  in  practice,  of  two 
hours  per  diem,  out  of  the  statutable  time  ;  which  other  wit- 
nesses also  in  the  same  examinations  manifestly  overthrew  jf 

*  Printed  Report,  p.  96. 

f  Two  other  eminent  and  long  resident  proprietors,  Mr.  Graham  and 
Mr.  Richards,,  while  supporting  the  Committee's  proposition  as  to  the  di- 
minution of  labour  from  12  to  10  hours,  attempted  to  make  it  out,  not  by 
any  change  in  the  time  of  commencing  and  ending  labour  in  the  field,  to 
which  alone  the  Act  relates,  but  in  very  different  ways. 

The  former  (p.  56,)  expressly  says,  "  ivith  regard  to  the  hours  ofluboury 
"  those  of  ABLE  people  are  much  the  same  as  they  were  when  he  came  to  the 
"  island ;"  that  is,  from  day-light,  which  in  this  climate  is  generally  from  five 
"  to  six  in  the  morning,"  &c.  (adopting  in  part  the  sidereal  errors  liere  in 
question.)  But  he  adds,  "  the  weakly  people  and  children  are  indulged,  both 
"  as  to  the  time  of  going  to  work  in  the  morning,  after  dinner,  and  in  leav- 
"  ing  off  work  in  the  evening;  the  average  time  that  the  able  people  work 
"  will  therefore  be  about  ten  hours  in  the  twenty-four."  (It  is  obvious  that 
the  word  "able"  in  the  last  clause  must  be  expunged,  in  order  to  make  the 
testimony  either  intelligible  or  consistent  with  itself.  It  is  perhaps  an  error 
of  the  press.) 

Here,  the  resort  is  to  cast  into  an  average  with  the  full  labours  of  the 
adults,  the  particular  indulgences  of  the  children  and  iveakly  slaves;  but  to 
their  case,  this  controversy  as  to  the  time  of  tield-labour  does  not  at  all  re- 
late ;  and  there  doubtless  never  was  a  time  when  some  abatements  were  not 
unavoidably  made  in  their  favour.  Supposing  them  now  spared  more  than 
formerly,  the  improvement  is  no  ease  to  the  adult  and  able  slaves.  In  tak- 
ing  such   weak   and    irrelevant  ground,  the  witness  shewed  that  he  was 

in  point  of  Time.  1 15 

for  my  business  at  present  is  only  to  rescue  the  day-light  from 
the  amputations  attempted  by  the  reporters,  and  my  other 

If  the  hours  of  labour  are  the  same  that  were  prescribed  by 
the  Act,  then  field-work  commences  at  five  in  the  morning, 
and  ends  at  seven  in  the  evening;  consequently  is  carried  on 
during  such  a  portion  of  the  twilight  as  amounts  on  an  aver- 
age to  two  hours ;  for  the  sun  is  so  long  on  an  average  below 
the  horizon,  between  those  points  of  limitation.  Either  then, 
what  I  have  called  an  "  adequate  twilight,"  exists  an  hour 
morning  and  evening,  making  two  hours  daily  ;  or  the  work 
goes  on  during  that  fainter  degree  of  crepuscular  light,  which 
the  report,  and  the  other  authorities  I  am  combating,  call 

aware  of  no  better  on  whiclihis  calculation  or  estimate  of  ten  hours  could 
be  sustained. 

Mr.  liichards  took  another  course.  He  said,  the  slaves,  when  he  first  came 
to  the  island  (thirty-four  years  before),  worked  two  hours  more  than  now; 
but  instead  of  shewing  any  such  deduction  from  the  legal  standard,  accord- 
ing to  the  assertion  of  tlie  Committee,  his  statements,  the  usual  fallacy  as 
to  the  length  of  day  excepted,  shew  like  Mr.  Graham's,  that  the  present 
practice  corresponds  with  that  standard ;  and  he,  like  Mr.  Harris,  finds  the 
improvement,  in  ascribing  to  the  former  planters  the  having  worked  their 
slaves  full  one  hour  before,  and  one  hour  after  the  day  ;  not  however,  in  the 
cane  pieces,  but  in  "  mak'wg  dung  and  c(i7Ti/ing  out  gi-nss,"  (p.  71.)  Whe- 
ther such  employments  are  now  included  in,  or  added  to  the  statutable  time 
of  field-labour,  my  readers  will  hereafter  be  enabled  to  judge. 

Thus  we  have  the  same  proposition,  that  the  hours  of  labour  have  been 
reduced  to  ten,  maintained  in  the  same  report,  from  four  different  sets  of  pre- 
mises, all  as  irreconcilable  with  each  other,  as  with  the  truth  of  the  case  : — 
the  Committee  dashingly  strikes  out  an  hour  and  a  half  from  the  legal  stand- 
ard, by  an  alleged,  but  unspecified  voluntary  remission  ;  one  of  its  witnesses 
dropping  that  standard,  and  substituting  for  it  the  limits  of  day-light,  finds 
the  improvement  in  ascribing  to  former  practice  two  hours  of  field-work 
by  night ;  another  finds  it  on  the  same  premises,  except  that  it  is  not  field- 
work,  but  nightly  dung  making  and  grass  carrying,  that  were  the  former  sub- 
jects of  excess  ;  and  a  third,  expressly  admitting  the  hours  of  labour  to  be 
unchanged,  contends,  'that  as  the  children  and  feeble  are  spared,  their  less 
share  of  labour  should  be  taken  into  average  w  ith  the  full  time  of  the  adults. 
They  all  however  more  or  less  eke  out  the  measure  of  alleged  improvement 
by  detracting  from  the  length  of  day-light. 

I  have  not  made  a  partial  selection  of  these  witnesses.  I  have  quoted  all 
who  spoke  with  any  specification,  either  as  to  the  reduction  of  labour,  o  its 
actual  periods. 

1  2 

1 16  Of  the  Excess  of  forced  Labour. 

night  or  darkness.  On  either  supposition,  my  opponents  are 
short  in  their  reckoning  of  daily  labour,  some  by  two  hours, 
and  all  by  at  least  an  hour  and  a  half;  and  on  the  former 
supposition,  we  have  found  the  proportion  we  were  in  quest 
of;  for  the  medium  of  true  astronomical  twilight  being  one 
hour  and  eighteen  minutes  morning  and  evening,  we  have  to 
strike  off  from  each  only  eighteen  minutes,  or  thirty-six  for 
the  whole  day,  and  the  rest,  being  in  the  proportion  of  five  to 
one,  will  be  a  crespuscular  light  adequate  to  all  the  labours  of 
the  field. 

But  as  my  opponents  may  perhaps  shift  their  ground, 
choosing  the  other  alternative,  and  admitting  that  now,  as  here- 
tofore, the  slaves  work  in  what  they  call  darkness,  I  will  offer 
another  criterion  for  ascertaining  the  proportion  in  question. 
At  what  time  do  free  persons  in  the  West  Indies  rise  to  their 
ordinary  employments,  whether  without  doors  or  within? 

Here  also,  fortunately,  I  have  hostile  testimony  of  no  mean 
authority  for  my  purpose.  Mr.  Dwarris  has  told  us  that  "  aL 
"  classesrise  at  gun-fire,  i.  e.five  o'clock  in  the  morning,''*  and  he 
claims  the  admission  of  it  from  us  anti-slavery  writers,  as  due 
"  in  common  candour""  to  his  side  of  the  question.  It  would 
certainly  be  highly  uncandid  in  me  not  to  allow  the  claim ;  for 
I  well  remember,  that  as  often  as  I  slept  near  enough  to  a  fort 
to  hear  the  morning-gun,  I  was  awoke  by  that  loud  summons, 
if  not  previously  roused  by  the  plantation  bells  ;  and  that  all 
classes  of  free  persons,  the  very  indolent  excepted,  then  rise, 
I  am  far  from  disputing.  I  could  not,  indeed,  have  affirmed 
with  certainty  from  my  own  recollection,  whether  the  gun  was 
uniformly  fired  at  five,  or  whether  it  was  not  a  little  earlier  or 
later,  when  the  centinel  perceived  the  first  glimmering  of  twi- 
light in  the  east ;  but  I  doubt  not  Mr.  D.'s  statement  is  correct ; 
and  will  therefore  assume  that  five  is  invariably  the  true  time 
of  the  morning-gun.  To  me  it  was  like  a  warning  voice  to 
take  care  of  my  health  and  life ;  for  without  the  use  of  all  the 
horse  exercise  that  the  twilight  permitted,  my  constitution 
would  not  have  endured,  that,  to  me,  most  enervating  climate 
for  eleven  years,  or  a  fifth  part  of  that  term,  finding  as  I  did 

*  See  Note  on  p.  106-7,  supra. 

m  point  of  Time.  117 

more  annoyance  than  benefit  from  exercise,  except  when  the 
sun  was  below  the  horizon.  Had  the  twilig;hts  been  as  short 
as  the  planters  now  pretend,  I  should  have  escaped  their  pub- 
lic enmity,  and  the  poor  slaves  would  have  lost  a  stedfast, 
though  hitherto,  alas!  very  unsuccessful  advocate;  for  a  quar- 
ter of  an  hour  would  hardly  have  sufficed  for  taking  the  cold 
bath,  which  I  always  did  on  rising,  and  for  dressing  and  mount- 
ing my  horse.  I  should  therefore  have  had  no  morning  exercise 
at  all.  When  invoked  by  an  advocate  on  the  other  side,  I 
may  pardonably  thus  far  depart  from  the  rule  of  stating  nothing 
as  a  witness,  and  add  also  to  the  admission  claimed  from  me, 
the  following  facts ;  —  that  the  morning  twilight  was  long 
enough  in  general  to  afford  me  a  ride  of  several  miles  at  an 
easy  pace,  after  taking  the  cold  bath ;  yet,  the  slaves  were 
turned  out  from  their  huts  so  long  before  my  outset,  that  I 
generally  saw  them  at  their  work  in  the  cane-pieces  when 
passing ;  and  cannot  recollect  once  hearing  the  plantation 
bells  after  I  left  my  bed.  If  I  ever  did,  it  must  have  been 
very  rarely.  Of  the  evening  twilight  I  made  the  same  use, 
from  the  same  necessity,  and  my  rides  were  then  often  pro- 
tracted beyond  the  final  close  of  daylight,  in  its  widest  sense  ; 
yet  the  last  living  objects  which  I  had  light  enough  to  dis- 
tinguish in  my  way,  were  usually  negroes  carrying  on  their 
heads  bundles  of  grass  they  had  collected,  or  standing  with 
them  at  the  works  to  await  the  inspection  of  the  overseer  at 
the  evening  grass  throwing.  It  is  needless,  however,  to  prove 
that  the  potential  duration  of  work  after  the  setting,  must  be 
full  as  great  as  before  the  rising,  sun. 

Mr.  Dwarris  and  I  then  being  agreed,  that  all  classes  (by 
which  I  understand  him  to  mean,  all  who  are  free)  rise  at  five, 
if  not  earlier  \for  what  purposes  do  they  rise  so  early  ?  Of  course 
not  for  the  pleasure  of  dressing  in  the  dark,  or  by  candle 
light.  It  must  be  to  follow  their  various  occupations,  whe- 
ther active  or  sedentary  ;  for  the  exercise  of  which,  therefore, 
we  may  certainly  infer  there  is  day-light  enough  at  that  hour. 
Yet  as  the  sun  never  rises  earlier  than  twenty-eight  minutes 
after  five,  and  sometimes  as  late  as  three  minutes  after  six, 
and  on  an  average  at  six  o'clock,  there  could  be  no  such 
light  for  an   hour  on  a  medium,  and  for  about  half  an  hour 

118  Oj  the  Excess  of  J'oieed  LaLoitr 

at  the  very  lowest  point,  if  the  crepuscle  did  not  give  it.  It 
follows  then,  from  the  astronomical  data  which  I  have  fur- 
nished, that  the  duration  of  the  adequate,  is  to  that  of  the 
entire  twilight,  upon  a  medium  as  sixty  to  seventy-eight, 
forming  little  less  than  four-fifths  of  the  whole.  At  the  equi- 
noxes, indeed,  that  proportion  would  not  give  adequate  light 
quite  so  early  as  five,  by  a  difference  of  about  five  minutes  ; 
but  this  is  a  difference  far  too  minute  to  prevent  our  taking, 
even  at  those  seasons,  five  o'clock  with  sufficient  accuracy, 
as  the  latest  commencement  of  adequate  day-light,  in  an  at- 
mosphere where  star-light  is  so  clear  that  the  planet  Venus 
often  casts  a  shadow  behind  an  object  opposed  to  it.  The 
obvious  general  conclusion  is,  that  the  length  of  the  day, 
measured  by  the  duration  of  Hght,  is  for  every  practical  purpose, 
fourteen  hours  instead  of  twelve,  which  some,  and  twelve  and 
a  half,  which  others  of  my  opponents  assign  to  it. 

It  may  naturally  enough  be  supposed,  that  I  have  wasted 
my  own  time  and  that  of  my  readers,  by  reasoning  so  much 
at  large  for  the  sake  of  this  conclusion,  or  that  of  its  corro- 
lary,  that  field-work  comprises  eleven  hours  and  a  half  of  the 
twenty-four,  after  the  repeated  admissions  of  both  by  the 
Jamaica  legislature ;  more  especially  when  I  add  the  recent 
and  impressive,  though  tacit  renewal  of  those  admissions  by 
the  same  authority.  I  mean  in  the  correspondence  between 
Mr.  Huskisson  when  Colonial  Secretary,  and  the  Governor 
and  Assembly  of  that  Island,  on  the  disallowance  of  the  new 
Consolidation  Act  of  1826,*  by  which  the  old  and  still  exist- 
ing limitations  of  field-labour  were  meant  to  be  re-enacted  ; 
for  though  the  assembly  applied  itself  elaborately  to  re- 
move the  other  objections  ;  his  humane  stricture  on  the 
oppressive  duration  of  eleven  and  a  half  hours  of  daily  labour 
in  the  field,  is  passed  by  without  defence  or  notice.  No  man 
who  considers  the  object  and  general  spirit  of  those  papers, 
can  doubt  for  a  moment  that  if  the  Assembly  could   have 

*  See  the  printed  papers  presented  to  Parliament  by  His  Majesty's  com- 
mand in  the  year  1828,  p.  4,  &c. 

in  point  of  Time.  1 19 

credibly  stood  by  its  own  pretences  of  1815,  by  alleging  a 
voluntary  abatement  in  practice  of  two  hours,  or  one  hour 
and  a  half,  or  even  a  much  smaller  improvement,  the  credit 
of  it  would  have  been  eagerly  claimed.  It  may  seem  even 
that  I  might  have  safely  relied  on  Mr.  Dwarris's  admissions 
alone ;  considering  the  official  character  in  which  he  lately 
visited  the  Island,  and  that  he  is  both  a  Jamaica  planter,  and 
a  champion  of  the  colonial  cause. 

Certainly,  had  I  no  more  to  do  than  to  satisfy  considerate 
and  impartial  men,  my  labours  in  this,  and  most  other  parts 
of  my  work,  might  have  been  safely  and  greatly  abridged.  But 
when  the  reader  considers  the  boundless  and  fatal  credulity  with 
which  reiterated  colonial  impostures  on  these  subjects,  how- 
ever clearly  refuted,  have  been  received  by  a  large  part  of  the 
British  public  during  more  than  forty  years,  on  the  impos- 
ing authority  of  legislative  assemblies,  and  their  banded  par- 
tizans  among  us,  he  will  perhaps  feel  with  me  that  I  have  a 
double  duty  to  perform ;  not  only  to  establish  the  true  nature 
of  the  case,  but  to  expose  the  fallacious  and  deceitful  cha- 
racter of  the  means  by  which  it  has  been  hitherto  contro- 
verted and  disguised.  With  those  by  whom  parties  accused 
of  odious  oppressions,  are  heard  with  confidence  as  witnesses 
in  their  own  defence,  no  ordinary  impeachment  of  their  credit, 
I  admit,  is  likely  to  prevail.  It  may  be  in  vain  that  I  have 
in  a  hundred  instances  shewn  their  utter  contempt  of  fair 
dealing  and  truth,  by  citing  their  own  testimony  and  that 
alone  against  them  :  but  the  bold  fictions  last  exposed,  and 
the  means  of  their  exposure,  were  of  so  extraordinary  a  kind, 
that  if  not  fatal  to  the  future  credit  of  colonial  evidence  on 
these  subjects,  it  must  be  because  the  credulity  which  pa- 
tronizes their  bad  cause  has  no  possible  limit.  It  is  a  bold 
figurative  censure  sometimes  passed  on  a  man  who  disputes 
notorious  truth,  that  he  would  "  deny  the  light  of  day  ;"  but 
my  antagonists  and  their  witnesses  have  literally  done  so. 
In  order  to  hide  the  true  measure  of  their  oppression,  the  light 
o/"(^rty  has  been  actually  and  seriously  denied.  During  two 
hours  of  the  twenty-four,  they  have  "put  darkness  for  light, 
"  and  light  for  darkness.''  It  was,  I  trust,  therefore,  no  waste 
of  time,  to  take  issue  with  them  on  this  point ;  and  invoke  not 

120  Of  the  Excess  of  forced  Labour 

only  their  own  evidence  and  their  own  records  as  usual,  but 
the  sun  in  his  course  to  contradict  them. 

Having  thus,  I  trust,  precluded  all  rational  doubt  of  the 
fact  that  field-work  commences  in  practice  as  well  as  by  law, 
at  five  in  the  morning,  and  ends  at  seven  in  the  evening,  I 
return  to  the  estimate  of  those  further  portions  of  time  which 
are  taken  from  sleep  and  from  rest,  before  the  actual  com- 
mencement of  the  daily  field-work,  and  after  its  termination. 
Let  it  be  supposed  that  Dr.  Collins's  advice  is  now  generally 
attended  to  in  practice,  and  that  the  bell  is  no  longer  rung,  or 
other  awakening  summons  given,  an  hour  or  two  prematurely, 
but  strictly  as  he  recommended,  when  the  twilight  is  very 
well  ascertained.  The  supposition  is  sufficiently  favourable  ; 
for  though,  as  he  observes,  there  is  difficulty  in  avoiding 
errors  on  the  one  side,  there  can  obviously  be  little  or  none  on 
the  other  ;  and  it  must  be  at  the  peril  of  the  negroes  or  watch- 
men, or  both,  if  they  are  called  too  late  to  muster  at  the 
proper  place  and  time  ;  but  not  if  they  are  called  too  early. 
The  latest  moment  to  which  they  can  be  safely  allowed  to 
sleep  is  that  which  will  leave  them  time  to  put  on  their  clothes, 
to  prepare  themselves  with  what  they  have  to  carry  to  the 
field  for  the  day,  and  to  walk  to  the  place  of  work,  at  what- 
ever part  of  the  estate  that  may  be.  The  time  necessary,  on 
an  average,  for  all  these  preliminary  occupations,  can  be  a 
subject  only  of  loose  conjectural  estimate  ;  but  that  half  an 
hour  or  more,  commonly  intervenes  between  the  coming  out 
of  all  the  individuals  from  their  huts,  and  their  general  muster 
in  the  field,  may  be  inferred  even  from  a  passage  in  "  the  West 
India  Colonies"  of  Mr.  M'Queen  ;  for  truth  sometimes  peeps 
through  a  crevice  in  the  most  finished  edifice  of  falsehood. 
This  writer,  who  has  the  inconceivable  confidence  to  deny  that 
the  driving  method  of  coercion,  a  practice  which  his  em- 
ployers still  resolutely  refuse  to  relinquish,  has  any  existence, 
and  to  rail  virulently  at  all  who  plead  for  its  abolition,  as 
liars  and  impostors,  affects  to  refute  us  by  the  following 
statement.  "  The  persons  called  drivers,  so  far  from  driv- 
"  ing  them  to  the  Jield,  leave  their  houses,  and  reach  the 
"  places  tvhere  they  are  to  tvork,  at  least  half  an  hour  before  a 
*'  single  negro  turns  out  or  approaches  the  place.''  (p.  256.) 

in  point  of  Time.  121 

The  proposition  thus  strangely  contradicted  and  refuted 
was  in  words,  cited  I  believe  from  a  work  of  my  own,  viz. 
that  the  slaves  were  driven  "  to  their  loork,  and  at  their  work," 
wliich  he  here  pretends  to  understand  as  if  it  meant  that  they 
were  driven  from  their  huts  to  the  place  at  which  they  are 
mustered  before  the  work  commences;  a  statement  that  would 
have  been  almost  as  absurd  as  most  of  those  by  which  Mr. 
M'Queen  has  insulted  the  understandings  of  his  readers ;  for 
it  is  manifest  that  if  the  negroes  were  mustered  in  that  way, 
every  individual,  on  turning  out  from  his  hut,  must  have  a 
driver  behind  him  to  urge  him  forward.  There  must,  in  other 
words,  be  as  many  drivers  as  workmen.  It  was  a  miserable  sub- 
terfuge, worthy  of  himself,  to  ascribe  such  a  meaning  to  his  op- 
ponent. But  he  here  lets  out  in  part  the  truth  of  the  case,  by 
noticing,  for  his  deceitful  purpose,  the  precession  of  the  driver  ; 
who  of  course  does  not  go  to  the  field  half  an  hour  before 
his  human  team,  merely  to  enjoy  a  soliloquy  prior  to  their 
arrival.  The  fact  is,  that  he  goes  there  as  soon  as  he  can 
after  the  bell-ringing,  in  order  to  give  the  second  call  with 
his  whip  ;  thereby  indicating  the  spot  of  the  general  muster  ; 
and  stays  there  to  note  the  times  of  the  successive  arrivals  of 
the  slaves,  which  vary  of  course  with  the  strength  or  speed 
of  each,  or  their  quickness  in  turning  out  from  their  huts, 
and  to  punish  on  the  spot,  those  who  arrive  too  late. 

Many  of  these  observations  as  to  the  morning  muster, 
apply  equally  to  the  evening  dismission  from  the  field,  the 
twilight  being  equal  in  duration  to  the  dawn. 

It  is  after  that  period  that  the  slaves,  when  not  taxed,  as 
we  shall  see  they  often  are,  with  further  work  for  the  mas- 
ter, have  to  "  plod  homeward  their  weary  way,"  from  the 
most  distant  part  perhaps  of  a  large  estate,  to  their  huts ; 
and  subsequently  to  provide  for  themselves  that  evening  meal, 
which  usually  supplies  to  them,  as  we  have  seen,  the  want  of 
a  dinner;  and  to  provide  also  for  the  next  morning's  break- 
fast, if  they  are  to  have  one. 

Strangers  to  the  case  cannot  easily  imagine  how  much, 
and  what  various  incidental  employment,  these  necessary 
duties  of  the  evening  involve.  The  negro,  be  it  again  remem- 
bered, though  he  may  be  a  husband  or  a  father,  has  no  wife 
or  children  at  home  to  prepare  his  meals  for  him  on  his  re- 

122  Of  the  Excess  qfj'uned  Labour 

turn  from  the  field ;  nor  has  he,  like  our  English  labourers, 
money  to  lay  out,  and  a  baker's  or  chandler's  shop  to  go 
to,  where  he  can  buy  his  food  in  a  state  fit  for  immediate 

Even  where  provisions  are  supplied  to  him  from  the  plan- 
tation stores,  he  receives  them  in  a  state  neither  fit  for  eating, 
nor  for  any  culinary  process,  without  much  previous  prepara- 
tion. The  most  favourable  case  is  an  allowance  ofjiour,  or  coni 
meal;  but  this,  though  leavened  bread  is  a  luxury  unknown 
to  him,  must  be  kneaded  of  course,  and  made  into  a  cake  or 
dumpling,  before  he  can  boil  or  bake  it.  The  articles  more 
commonly  served  out,  where  vegetable  food  is  allowed  by  the 
master,  is  unground  Guinea  or  Indian  corn,  or  maize,  with 
their  horny  coats,  or  horse  beans  ;  *  and  upon  these  he  must 

*  I  must  not  here  anticipate  too  largely  the  subject  of  subsistence,  which 
properly  belongs  to  subsequent  chapter  ;  but  as  these  statements  may  seem 
strange  to  many  of  my  readers,  I  subjoin  here  the  following  extracts:  — 
"  It  required,"  says  Mr.  De  la  Beche,  "  one  thousand  bushels  of  Guinea 
"  corn  to  supply  the  negroes  during  the  year  ;  the  average  crop  of  Guinea 
"  corn  on  the  estate  is  about  1400  bushels,  so  that  near  two-thirds  of  the 
"  labour  expended  in  this  kind  of  cultivation  was  solely  for  their  own 
"  benefit." — (Here  we  have  the  standing  fallacy,  that  raising  his  own  food 
is  for  the  slave's  benefit,  not  the  master's.)  "  It  used,"  adds  the  same 
writer,  "  to  be  the  custom  to  give  every  negro  on  the  property  a  gallon  of' 
"  Guinea  corn  on  the  Sunday  morning,  when  they  had  not  been  allowed  the 
"  previous  Saturday  for  themselves  ;  but  in  consequence  of  having  had 
"  every  Saturday  given  them  out  of  crop  during  the  last  year,  they  have 
"  not  asked,  and  consequently  have  not  received,  any  very  great  assistance 
^*  from  the  corn  store.  About  sixty  persons,  consisting  of  invalids,  chil- 
"  dren,  the  stock  keepers,  and  domestics,  receive  a  gallon  of  corn  each  per 
"  week  all  the  year  round." — Notes,  &c.  p.  8,  9. 

These  are  the  words,  not  of  an  unfeeling  or  sordid,  but  of  a  liberal  and 
benevolent  planter,  in  his  account  of  the  management  of  his  own  estate  in 
Jamaica  ;  where,  however,  I  understand  that  the  slaves  in  general  are  sup- 
plied with  no  provisions  except  a  few  salt  herrings  from  the  master's  store, 
but  depend  on  their  own  grounds  for  support.  If  they  are  not  on  that  ac- 
count the  worse  fed,  which  I  will  not  here  enquire,  their  evening  and  other 
labours  out  of  gang,  are  of  course  not  the  less. 

As  to  the  use  of  horse-beans  in  other  colonies,  I  give  the  following  extract 
from  Dr.  Collins  : — "  Horse-beans  are  given  to  the  negroes  on  many  estates 
"  in  the  Windward  Islands  for  their  allowance.  If  ground  into  flour,  or  bruised 
■"  in  a  mill,  perhaps  no  great  objection  would  attend  their  use ;  but  if  other- 
"  wise,  they  are  an  execrable  food  ;  —  for  as  it  would  be  troublesome  to  the 

in  point  of  Time.  1 23 

perform  the  process  of  trituration  how  he  may ;  for  no  mill  of 
any  kind  is  provided  :  he  must  grind  or  pound  them  laboriously 
between  such  large  stones  as  he  can  find  for  the  purpose, 
before  he  can  knead  them  into  a  loaf  or  cake  for  the  fire  ;  but 
more  commonly,  as  appears  from  my  last  quotation,  is  con- 
tent to  boil  and  eat  them  husks  and  all.  As  to  the  cassada 
or  manioc,  it  requires  both  to  be  dried  and  rasped,  or  grated 
into  meal,  before  any  further  preparation  of  it  as  food ;  but 
this,  with  calavansa  beans,  and  other  native  pulse  or  veget- 
ables, on  which  the  negroes  feed,  are,  I  apprehend,  very 
rarely  if  ever,  supplied  by  the  master.  They  belong,  there- 
fore, to  another  and  more  onerous  class  of  occupations,  the 
gathering  and  bringing  from  the  provision  grounds,  such  arti- 
cles of  supply. 

But  these  are  by  no  means  all  the  incumbrances  on  the 
period  of  pretended  rest;  for  at  what  other  time  can  they 
collect  and  carry  home  the  wood  they  use  for  fuel,  or  the 
water  which  they  want  for  culinary  purposes,  and  to  allay 
their  thirst,  on  that  and  the  following  day  ? 

Comparatively  fortunate  is  the  poor  slave,  especially  in  the 
Leeward  Islands,  who  has  a  spring  of  water  within  two  or 
three  miles  of  his  hut;  and  a  great  majority  are  obliged  to 
resort  for  it  to  the  plantation  well  at  the  works,  where  it  is, 
for  the  most  part,  to  be  drawn  from  a  great  depth.  If  we  add 
to  these  particulars  of  daily  occurrence,  the  washing  and 
mending  their  clothes,  the  keeping  their  flimsy  huts  and 
their  working  tools  in  repair,  and  the  various  other  occasional 
occupations  that  naturally  fall  on  men  and  women  who  are  left 
in  all  such  matters   to  shift  for  themselves,  it  will  be  plain 

"  proprietor  to  dress  daily  so  many  of  them  as  would  serve  his  whole  gang, 
"  they  are  given  out  undressed ;  and  it  is  left  to  the  negroes  to  do  the  best 
"  they  can  with  them.  Now  beans  being  of  a  close  and  flimsy  texture, 
"  and  requiring  a  great  deal  of  time  and  cookery  to  prepare  them  for  the 
"  stomach,  and  your  negroes  having  very  little  of  either  to  spare,  they  are 
"  swallowed  half  boiled,  or  quite  raw  ;  in  which  case  they  impart  about  as 
"  much  nourishment  to  the  body  as  so  many  bullets,"  &c.  He  adds,  "  As 
"  the  negroes,  contrary  to  an  opinion  which  has  been  erroneously  enter- 
"  tained,  are  generally  provided  with  very  bad  grinders,  a  great  part  of 
"  the  grain  which  is  used  for  their  diet  is  swallowed  whole,  and  rendered  in 
"  the  same  state  ;  of  course  it  is  eaten  to  little  purpose."  —  Practical  Rules, 
&c.  p.  97,98. 

124  Of  the  Excess  of  forced  Labour 

that  much  time  must  be  wanted  to  supply  their  own  necessi- 
ties after  the  work  of  the  field  is  ended. 

It  is  by  no  means  universally  true,  however,  that  labour 
directly  and  unequivocally  for  the  master's  benefit,  even  out 
of  crop,  terminates  with  their  dismission  by  the  drivers. 

They  then  cease,  it  is  true,  to  work  in  gang,  the  crop  season 
excepted,  till  the  following  dawn  ;  but  they  have  various 
evening  services  afterwards  to  perform  on  the  master's  ac- 
count, as  well  as  their  own ;  and  some  of  them  of  a  very 
onerous  kind. 

By  far  the  worst  of  these  solitary  labours,  is  the  tedious 
and  fatiguing  drudgery  of  grass-picking,  Mr.  Ramsay's  ac- 
count of  which  is  already  before  my  readers  ;  and  I  have 
little  if  any  thing  to  add  to  it,  except  a  few  explanatory  re- 
marks ;  and  except  that,  as  I  waived  all  benefit  from  his  testi- 
mony, because  he  was  a  foe  to  slavery,  its  verity  remains  to  be 

Here,  however,  a  distinction  must  be  pointed  out,  of  much 
real,  though  much  more  apparent  importance.  There  are 
colonies,  and  Jamaica  is  one  of  them,  in  which  this  practice, 
though  prevailing  extensively,  is  not  in  its  nature  so  onerous  as 
in  the  Leeward  Islands.  They  have  so  much  land  there  in  most 
plantations  unfit  for  the  growth  of  sugar,  or  on  which  there  are 
not  hands  enough  for  extending  to  the  utmost  that  most  profit- 
able species  of  agriculture,  that  most  planters  have  adopted 
the  practice  of  laying  out  artificial  grass  pieces  to  provide 
provender  for  their  horses,  mules,  and  other  working  cattle : 
and  many  of  them  have  also  penns  or  grazing  grounds,  where 
their  sheep  and  other  live  stock  feed  ;  whereas  in  St.  Christo- 
pher, and  several  others  of  our  older  and  fully  settled  islands, 
almost  every  rood  of  land  capable  of  raising  exportable  pro- 
duce, has  long  since  been  avariciously  devoted  to  that  pur- 

Of  course,  therefore,  there  is  generally  speaking,  in  such 
colonies,  no  room  for  grass  pieces,  except  at  a  height  on  the 
mountain  ridges  too  distant  and  steep  for  cultivation,  and 
where  there  is  but  a  short  native  sward,  fit  only  for  a  few 
sheep  or  goats  to  browse  upon. 

A  consequence  calamitous  to  the  poor  slaves  is,  that  except 
in  crop-time,  when  the  canc-tops  serve    for  provender,  the 

in  point  of  Time.  125 

horses,  mules,  cattle,  and  live  stock  of  every  kind,  not  even 
excepting  the  sheep  and  goats  on  most  estates,  are  fed  ex- 
clusively on  native  grass  and  weeds  plucked  stem  by  stem 
by  the  hands  of  the  negroes ;  and  which  they  are  obhged  to 
search  for  in  the  hedge-rows,  the  ranges,  the  fallowed  cane- 
pieces,  and  the  steep  sides  of  deep  guts  or  ravines  by  which 
the  country  is  copiously  intersected. 

As  vegetation  in  that  climate  is  astonishingly  quick,  especi- 
ally in  the  rainy  season,  which  begins  about  the  close  of  the 
crop,  these  resources  in  general  are  much  more  copious  than 
might  be  supposed ;  but  when  a  short  drought  occurs,  the 
slaves  are  often  obliged  to  ascend  high  into  the  mountain 
grounds  of  their  own  or  the  neighbouring  estates,  to  find  the 
ordinary  tale  of  grass  ;  and  on  low-land  plantations,  many  of 
which  have  no  mountain  ground  at  all,  their  task  is  peculiarly 
laborious.  At  best  it  is  in  a  high  degree  oppressive;  for  the 
daily  consumption  of  such  green  food  by  all  the  cattle  and 
live  stock  of  a  plantation  which  have,  generally  speaking, 
out  of  crop-time  no  other  subsistence  whatever,  a  little  corn 
imported  for  the  horses  excepted,  must  obviously  be  very 
great;  and  there  is  not  a  handful,  or  scarcely  a  stalk  of  it, 
that  has  not  cost  a  stoop  to  some  weary  slave,  besides  long 
walks  in  its  collection. 

This  work  has  been  naturally,  but  most  inadequately  com- 
pared to  the  Egyptian  straw-gathering ;  while  in  almost 
every  other  point,  that  ancient  bondage,  though  called  "  an 
iron  yoke  and  a  furnace  of  affliction,"  affords  a  striking  con- 
trast, rather  than  a  parallel,  to  the  slaverj'^  of  the  West  Indies. 

The  time  allowed  for  this  tedious  labour  of  grass-picking 
in  the  Leeward  and  Windward  islands,  is,  first,  that  noon-tide 
interval,  not  less  falsely,  in  this  case,  called  a  respite,  than  a 
dinner-time,  and  all  the  twilight  that  remains  from  the  dimis- 
sion  in  the  evening,  to  the  "  grass-throwing,"  as  it  is  termed, 
the  true  close  of  the  daily  labour  for  the  master. 

Nor  is  this  final  process  of  very  short  duration ;  for  as  the 
individuals  of  the  gang  finish  their  respective  collection  of 
such  bundles  as  they  hope  may  pass  muster,  and  arrive  with 
them  at  the  homestall,  naturally  at  very  unequal  times,  ac- 
cording to  their  different  degrees  of  strength,  and  of  success 
in  their  wide-spread  individual  searches,  many  of  them  of 
course  must  wait  long  for  the  rest,  in  order  to  a  simultaneous 

126*  Of  the  Kxcess  of  forced  Lahnur 

delivery  of  their  bundles,  at  the  same  place.  Yet  the  de- 
livery is  required  to  be  simultaneous  ;  for  otherwise,  the  over- 
seer, to  whom  the  important  duty  of  inspecting  the  bundles 
is  assigned,  might  have  to  stand  an  hour  or  more  in  the  sun, 
or  in  the  evening  dew,  or  in  the  rain,  to  pass  judgment  on 
every  slave,  as  he  successively  arrives.  That  judgment,  too, 
I  admit,  would,  sometimes  be  more  severe  than  it  is,  if  this 
practice  were  altered  :  for  when  the  general  amount  of  grass 
is  thought  sufficient,  the  overseer  is  able  to  connive  a  little  at 
the  scanty  contribution  of  individuals,  who  plead  either  the 
ill  success  of  their  search,  or  fatigue,  or  ill  health,  to  excuse 
the  smallness  of  their  respective  bundles. 

The  practice  is,  that  when  all  the  slaves  have  arrived,  or 
are  thought  to  have  had  sufficient  time  for  the  purpose,  the 
driver,  who  always  attends  to  punish  delinquents  on  the  spot, 
draws  them  up  in  line,  each  having  his  or  her  bundle  or 
bundles  on  the  head ;  and  then  calls  out  the  overseer,  who 
goes  leisurely  along  the  line,  examining  every  load,  and  if 
satisfied,  simply  directs  it  to  be  thrown  down  on  the  general 
heap;  but  if  not,  orders  the  instant  punishment  of  the  de- 
faulters, having  regard  to  the  degree  of  each  particular  de- 

This  process  being  ended,  the  poor  slaves  may  retire,  to 
re-assemble  in  the  field  at  two,  if  it  be  in  the  afternoon  ;  or  if 
it  be  the  evening  grass-throwing,  to  prepare  that  meal  which 
their  luxury,  we  are  told,  makes  them  prefer  to  a  dinner. 
Perhaps  it  will  be  surmised,  that  they  have  rather  a  better 
reason,  than  luxurious  self-indulo-ence  for  declinino-  to  dine, 
especially  in  the  grass-picking  colonies,  when  dismissed  on  a 
distant  cane-piece  at  noon,  and  obliged  to  reappear  there,  at 
the  two-o'clock  muster,  under  pain  of  immediately  feeling 
the  smart  of  the  torturing  cart  whip. 

But  after  reading  Mr.  Ramsay's  account,  and  these  further 
illustrations  of  my  own,  neither  of  which,  by  my  agreement, 
are  to  be  taken  as  evidence,  the  reader  may  desire  to  see  them 
sufficiently  verified.  I  will,  therefore,  here  adduce  again, 
the  unimpeached  and  indisputable  testimony  of  Dr.  Col- 

**  The  picking  of  grass,"  says  that  writer,  "  in  situations 
"  where  it  is  most  abundant,  is  a  labour  more  felt  and  regretted 
"  by  the  negroes  than  others  much  more  severe ;  yet,  as  the 

in  point  of  Time.  127 

"  cattle  must  be  fed,  it  would  be  advisable  to  assign  a  certain 
"  portion  of  the  land  to  the  production  of  Guinea-grass;  a 
"  little  sacrifice  of  interest,  is  better  than  a  oreat  oneofneo^ro 
**  comfort."* 

In  another  place  he  says,  "  The  neglect  of  grass-picking,  is 
"  another  frequent  cause  of  punishment.  On  some  estates, 
"  it  draws  more  stripes  upon  the  negroes,  than  all  their  other 
*•  offences  put  together ;  as  the  lash  seldom  lies  idle  while  the 
•'  grass-roll  is  calling  over.  It  is  to  be  lamented,  that  this 
*'  work  is  so  essential,  as  not  to  be  entirely  dispensed  with  ; 
"  for  as  it  is  to  be  performed  when  the  negroes  are  retired 
"  from  the  field,  and  no  longer  under  the  eye  of  the  overseer, 
"  or  the  driver,  it  is  apt  to  be  neglected.  Besides,  it  en- 
"  croaches  much  on  the  time  allotted  to  their  own  use ;  and  even 
"  aftei-  they  have  with  mtich  trouble  picked  their  bundles,  they 
"  are  frequeuthj  stolen  from  them  by  fnore  artful  and  less 
*'  industrious  negroes,  and  their  excuses,  however  just,  are  seldom 
"  admitted  to  extenuate  their  fault." 

After  again  recommending  the  substitution  of  Guinea-grass, 
or  other  artificial  grasses,  to  be  cultivated  on  spots  to  be  al- 
lotted to  that  purpose,  he  adds,  "  However,  where  there  is 
"  no  waste  ground  that  can  be  assigned  to  that  use,  or  at 
"  least  not  to  a  sufficient  extent  to  supersede  the  necessity  of 
"  picking  the  natural  grass  out  of  the  hedges,  or  cane-pieces, 
"  the  quotas  which  the  negroes  are  assessed  ought  not  to  be 
"  rigorously  exacted  from  them.  They  who  make  default 
"  but  seldom  should  be  overlooked,  whilst  they  who  offend 
*'  more  frequently,  should  only  be  compelled  to  repair  their 
"  neglect  by  bringing  a  double  quantity  at  the  next  call.  In 
"  general  they  would  do  so,  and  you  would  profit  more  by  the 
"  fine  than  by  the  punishment,  and  your  negroes  would  escape 
"  the  whip,  which  is  too  intemperately  employed  on  this  occa- 
"  sion,  as  on  others  ;  but  the  misfortune  is,  it  is  always  at  hand, 
"  and  therefore  supplies  the  readiest  means  of  punishing  ;  for 
"  the  overseer  having  such  a  summary  mode  of  balancing 
"  offences,  never  thinks  of  any  other,  which  demanding  fore- 
"  sight,  and  taxing  his  recollection,  would  engage  him  in  a 
"  more  complex  system  of  government. "f 

Practical  Rules,  &c.  p.  192-3.  f  Ibid.  204-5. 

128  0/  the  Excess  of' forced  Labour 

Though  Dr.  ColHns  does  not  expressly  state  that  the  whole 
of  the  noontide  respite  from  the  drivers  is  employed  in  grass- 
picking,  and  the  subsequent  attendance  at  the  roll-calling  for 
its  delivery  ;  such  I  think  may  be  fairly  inferred  to  be  the 
case,  from  different  passages  in  his  work,  in  addition  to  those 
I  have  here  cited.  He  says,  for  instance,  in  his  advice  as  to  the 
intervals  in  the  morning  and  mid-day.  "  At  noon  they  must 
"  have  two  full  hours  before  they  are  summoned  to  throw  their 
"  grass  ;  and  at  night,  if  out  of  crop,  they  retire  from  the  field 
"  with  the  sun."*  There  could  be  no  reason  why  the  grass- 
throwino;  should  be  reserved  to  the  end  of  the  allotted  two 
hours,  except  that  they  would  not,  otherwise,  always  have 
sufficient  time  for  collecting  and  bringing  it  in,  without  too 
much  hurry  and  fatigue.  And  if  the  task  generally  or  often 
employs  two  full  hours  at  noon,  it  cannot  well  be  supposed  to 
employ  less  in  the  evening,  when  the  slaves  have  been  fa- 
tigued with  the  whole  gang- work  labours  of  the  day.  In 
point  of  fact,  too,  the  quantity  exacted  at  evening,  is  generally 
the  largest ;  because  it  is  to  serve  all  the  stock  through 
the  night,  and  till  the  following  noon.  Dr.  Collins  says  no- 
thing as  to  the  time  of  grass-throwing  in  the  evening  ;  but  if 
the  negroes  ''retire  from  the  field,  (i.e.  from  the  gang-work) 
"  with  the  sun,"  which  is,  on  a  medium,  six  o'clock,  and  where 
grass-picking  prevails,  they  are  I  believe  often  dismissed  thus 
early,  it  may  be  inferred  that  the  grass-throwing  is  not  finish- 
ed on  an  average  sooner  than  between  seven  and  eioht ;  and 
this  perfectly  accords  with  Ramsay's  account,  or  shows 
at  least  that  he  used  no  exaggeration ;  for  his  words  are 
"  about  seven  o'clock  in  the  evening,  or  later,  according  to 
"  the  season  of  the  year,  when  the  overseer  can  find  lei- 
"  sure,  they  are  called  over  by  list  to  deliver  in  their  second 
"  bundles  of  grass," 

Mr.  Ramsay,  in  the  same  account,  may,  when  compared 
with  Dr.  Collins  and  most  other  colonial  apologists,  be 
thought  more  than  sufficiently  favourable  to  the  planters  ;  for 
he  spoke  of  the  evening  grass-picking,  we  have  seen,  as  begin- 
ning "  about  half  an  hour  before  sunset,'"  instead  of  their  "  re- 
"  tiring  with  the  sun'   from  the  gang-work.     Here,   however, 

*  P.  189.     We  must  obviously  read  "  should  retire  ;"  but  I  will  not  cor- 
rect the  typographical  error. 

7)1  point  o)  Time.  129 

he  was  incorrect  only  in  using  general  terms  to  describe  what, 
though  a  very  frequent,  is  a  local  and  occasional,  not  the  ge- 
neral practice.  In  St.  Christopher,  where  he  lived,  the  grass- 
picking  is,  for  the  reason  I  have  given,  pre-emiiiently  tedious  ; 
and  when  the  weather  has  been  more  than  usually  dry,  it  is 
often  necessary,  especially  on  low-land  estates,  to  dismiss  the 
gang  from  the  cane-pieces  half  an  hour  before  sunset,  in  order 
that  they  may  have  time  and  light  enough  to  collect  bundles 
sufficiently  large.  By  no  other  writer  within  my  recollection 
is  a  dismission  by  the  drivers  before  sunset  alleged. 

And  here  I  cannot  but  digress  a  moment  to  observe  how 
fully,  and  in  how  many  particulars,  Dr.  Collins's  work,  re- 
published by  an  eminent  colonial  agent  and  apologist  of  sla- 
very within  the  present  century  ;  and  first  printed  at  least 
Jifteen  years  later  than  that  of  Mr.  Ramsay,  is  found  to  con- 
firm his  statements,  and  give  a  posthumous  triumph  to  the 
character  of  that  very  worthy,  but  much  calumniated 
man.  In  a  passage  that  I  omitted  before,  he  had  pointed 
out  this  further  occasional  aggravation  of  the  miseries  of 
grass-picking;  "  On  their  return  from  a  neighbouring  height, 
"  often  some  lazy  fellow  of  the  intermediate  plantation,  with 
"  the  view  of  saving  himself  the  trouble  of  picking  his  own 
"  grass,  seizes  on  them,  and  pretends  to  insist  on  carrying 
"  them  to  his  master  for  picking  grass,  or  being  found  on  his 
"  grounds  ;  a  crime  that  forfeits  the  bundle,  and  subjects  the 
*'  offender  to  twenty  lashes  of  a  long  cart-whip  of  twisted 
"  leather  thongs.  The  wretch  is  fain  to  escape  with  the  loss 
"  of  his  bundle,  &c.  The  hour  of  delivering  in  his  grass  ap- 
"  proaches,  while  hunger  importunately  solicits  him  to  re- 
•'  member  its  call;  but  he  must  renew  the  irksome  toil,"  &c.* 

Let  this  be  compared  with  the  lines  I  have  printed  with 
italics  in  the  last  extract  from  Dr.  Collins.  Indeed  I  hardly 
know  a  single  stricture  of  Mr.  Ramsay's  on  the  oppressive 
treatment  of  slaves,  that  has  not  since  his  death  been  abun- 
dantly confirmed  by  writers  of  the  same  party  with  those 
who  hooted  him  into  his  grave  as  a  libeller  and  a  liar.  His 
only  crime  was  the   holding  up  to  public  abhorrence  in  this 

*  P.  70. 

VOL.     11.  K 

130  Of  the  E.ness  of  Juiced  Labour 

country,  a  system  of  which  they  now  admit  that  his  general 
reprobation  was  just;  since  they  now  confess  that  when  he 
wrote,  and  for  twenty  years  after,  the  poor  slaves  were  barba- 
rously oppressed,  in  practice  as  well  as  by  law. 

On  the  Saturday  evenings,  the  picking  of  grass  must  by 
an  obvious  necessity  be  enforced  to  much  more  than  its  usual 
extent,  to  rescue  the  sabbath,  if  in  fact  rescued,  from  that 
burthen.  When  we  are  told,  therefore,  that  Saturday  after- 
noon is  given  to  the  slaves  for  themselves,  or  for  the  working 
their  own  grounds,  we  should  recollect  that  there  is  this 
heavy  incumbrance  upon  it  for  the  direct  and  unequivocal  use 
of  the  master.  To  exempt  the  sabbath  entirely,  thrice  the 
usual  quantity  must  be  thrown  the  evening  before. 

The  sabbath  itself,  however,  is  encroached  upon  for  the  same 
purpose,  "  no  work  is  ever  required  of  them  by  their  master  on 
*'  Sundays,"  said  the  council  and  assembly  of  St.  Christopher, 
"  except  the  picking  a  bundle  of  giass  on  Sunday  evenings, 
"■  which  usually  (they  had  the  confidence  to  add)  does  not 
"  require  half  an  hour."*  They  meant  it  to  be  supposed, 
perhaps,  that  the  grass  springs  in  more  abundant  quantities 
on  Sundays  than  other  days;  not,  indeed,  altogether  to  pre- 
vent the  profanation  of  that  day,  but  to  enable  the  slaves  to 
perform  in  half  an  hour  what  costs  them  three  or  four  hours 
daily  at  other  times. 

The  reader  may  suppose  that  here,  at  least,  there  has  pro- 
bably been  some  improvement,  since  the  era  of  alleged  atten- 
tion to  the  spiritual  state  of  the  black  population  commenced  ; 
let  him  compare,  then,  this  admission  of  1789,  with  the  latest 
statement  on  the  subject,  of  equal  authority,  on  the  colonial 
side,  which  I  extract  from  the  examinations  taken  and  trans- 
mitted by  the  council  of  Barbadoes,  in  1824,  in  opposition  to 
the  reformations  recommended  by  the  crown  and  parliament. 

"  It  is  usual,  on  most  estates,  for  the  negroes  on  Sunday 
"  mornings  to  bring  up  with  them  a  bundle  of  grass  at  eight 
"  o'  clock,  and  receive  their  allowances  for  that  day,  after 
"■  which  they  are  never  called  upon  to  do  any  thing;  and 
'*  Saturday  afternoons  are  very  commonly  given  to  them  — 

*  Privy  Council  Report  on   the   Slave  Trade,  part  3,   title  Grenada  and 
St.  Christopher,  A.  No.  9. 

/// po'mt  of  Time.  131 

"  that  on  some  estates  he  has  abolished  the  bringing  of  grass 
"  on  Sunday  mornings,  which,  however,  occupies  a  very  short 
"  time."* 

Here  we  have  the  same  difficulties  as  in  the  account  of 
the  evening  grass-throwing  on  Sundays  at  St.  Christopher. 
If  there  is  but  one  picking  on  the  sabbath,  it  must  be  equal 
in  quantity  to  two  on  other  days,  unless  the  cattle  and  stock 
are  put  on  short  allowance.  And  what  are  we  to  understand 
by  "  a  very  short  time  ?"  If  not  nearly  or  full  three  hours,  it 
would  be  a  great  and  wanton  hardship  on  the  poor  slaves  to 
delay  the  grass-throwing  till  eight  o'clock  ;  as  well  as  a  need- 
less violation  of  the  sabbath,  to  make  that  the  time  for  dis- 
tributing their  allowances.  It  would  be  to  rob  them  without 
profit  to  the  master,  of  the  time  that  they  might  have  em- 
ployed, if  earlier  dismissed,  in  going  to  their  provision 
grounds,  or  to  the  Sunday  market,  or  in  preparing  for  the 
latter  after  their  usual  time  of  rising,  whether  that  was  four 
or  five  o' clock.  It  is,  therefore,  a  conclusion,  not  only  the 
most  natural,  but  the  least  unfavourable  to  the  planter's 
humanity,  that  they  cannot  on  an  average  gather  and  bring 
to  the  works  grass  enough  for  the  use  of  the  day,  earlier 
than  eight ;  in  other  words,  this  "  very  short  time"  probably 
employs  two  or  three  hours  of  tedious  and  wearisome  work. 
In  the  usual  style  of  these  admissions  we  are  told  of  "  bring- 
"  ing  with  them  a  bundle  of  grass,''  as  if  they  found  it  at  their 
huts,  and  had  nothing  to  do  but  to  carry  it,  instead  of  having 
to  roam  over  the  whole  estate  to  find  and  pluck  it  blade  by 
blade.  As  this  is  the  best  case  the  Barbadoes  council  could 
dress  up  for  use  in  this  country,  who  can  doubt  that  the 
acknowledged  grievance  of  grass-picking  is  full  as  bad  at  this 
period  as  it  was  above  forty  years  ago  ?  The  same  will  be 
found  to  be  the  case  in  every  point;  or  at  least  in  all  that  I 
mean  to  investigate,  the  economical  oppressions  of  the  system. 

To  this  I  will  add  another  extract  from  an  account  still 
more  recent,  the  work  of  June,  1829,  to  which  I  have  before 
referred.f     "  Upon  Sunday  evenings  all  the  negroes  of  both 

*  Examination  of  Forster  Clarke,  Esq.,  a  proprietor  of  a  plantation  in 
Barbadoes,  and  attorney  for  19  estates  of  absentees.     Printed  Report,  108- 
f  See  supra,  p.  29,  30. 

K    2 

132  Of  the  Excess  of  forced  Labour 

*'  sexes,  except  the  children,  have  to  muster  with  a  bundle  of 
'*  grass  for  the  cattle,  which  is  cut  from  the  open  spaces  which 
"  divide  the  cane  fields,  and  from  other  parts  of  the  estate. 
"  Upon  some  properties,  this  is  required  in  the  morning  as 
"  well  as  the  evening."* 

As  the  drudgery  of  grass-picking  is  from  local  circumstances, 
considerably  mitigated  in  Jamaica,  and  perhaps  in  some  other 
colonies,  it  may  be  thought  that  the  field-negroes  there  have 
more  spare  time  for  themselves.  Though  I  am  far  from  denying 
the  importance  of  that  distinction,  the  effect  of  much  abridging 
the  entire  time  of  labour  may  be  questioned  ;  not  only  be- 
cause the  gang  is  in  consequence  detained  longer,  as  we  have 
seen,  in  the  cane-fields,  but  because  the  same  diversity  of 
local  circumstances  leads  to  a  larger  reliance  on  native  pro- 
visions, and  gives  the  slaves  consequently  more  work  to  do 
at  their  noontide  and  evening  hours,  in  providing  their  own 
subsistence,  than  in  places  where  they  are  chiefly  sustained 
by  imported  articles  of  food. 

For  proof  of  the  former  proposition,  we  need  only  to  com- 
pare Mr.  Ramsay's  statements  as  to  the  times  of  dismission 
from  the  cane-pieces  in  St.  Christopher,  with  those  of  colo- 
nial witnesses  and  writers,  whose  statements  relate  to  Ja- 
maica ;  for  his  authority,  when  on  the  extenuatory  side,  will 
not,  I  presume,  be  disputed  ;  and  he  represented  the  noontide 
respite  as  well  as  evening  dismission  to  be  earlier,  and  the 
former  to  be  of  longer  d  uration  than  any  of  the  Jamaica  gen- 
tlemen allege  ;  making  the  field-Work  stop,  according  to  va- 
riant usage  on  different  plantations,  at  "  eleven  o'clock,  or 
"  noon,''  and  the  respite  to  vary  from  an  hour  and  a  half  to 
near  three  hours  ;  and  he  dates  the  evening  dismission,  as  we 
have  seen,  at  half  an  hour  before  sun-set.t  It  would  appear, 
therefore,  that  the  noontide,  as  well  as  evening  time  of  ab- 
sence from  the  gang-work,  is  longer  on  a  medium  by  half  an 
hour  at  the  least,  making  together  one  hour  in  the  day,  at  St. 
Christopher's  than  in  Jamaica. 

*  Observations  upon  the  State  of  Negio  Slavery  in  the  Island  of  Santa 
Cruz,  p.  89. 

t  See  supra,  p.  70,  71. 

///  point  of  Ti/ne.  J  33 

Mr.  Beckforcl,  says,  "  that  there  tlie  slaves  seldom  continue 
"  in  the  field  out  of  crop  after  sunset,  which  is  never  later 
"  than  seven."*  And  even  Mr.  Bryan  Edwards  was  content 
to  say,  "  At  sunset,  or  veri/  soon  after,  they  are  released  for  the 
"  night;"  he  adds,  "  the  drudgery  of  grass-picking  so  much 
"  complained  of  in  some  of  the  islands  to  windward,  being 
"  happily  unknown  in  Jamaica. "f  The  latter  assertion  is 
one  of  the  very  numerous  instances  in  which  that  plausible, 
but  most  disingenuous  defence  of  slavery,  called  a  History 
of  the  West  Indies,  has  misled  not  only  the  enemies  of  the 
negroes,  but  their  friends.  I  confess  that  I  was  myself  in 
this  instance,  deceived  by  it ;  never  having  been  in  Jamaica, 
and  not  thinking  it  probable  that  the  author,  an  eminent 
planter  of  the  island,  and  long  resident  there,  would  have 
ventured  to  call  a  practice  unknown  there,  if  it  had  been  in 
any  degree  commonly  used.  The  fact,  as  I  am  now  well  in- 
formed is,  that  the  distinction  is  rather  in  degree,  than  in 
kind  ;  for  though  the  slaves  in  Jamaica  have  not,  generally 
speaking,  far  to  go  for  grass,  or  to  collect  it  by  such  tedious 
pickings  as  in  St.  Christopher  and  other  islands,  they  have 
to  cut  it,  when  grass  pieces  are  planted  for  the  purpose ;  and 
when  not,  as  is  more  commonly  the  case,  to  go  through  the 
common  process  of  grass-picking  as  here  described ;  except 
that  from  its  abundance,  that  process  is  not  near  so  difficult 
and  tedious  as  in  those  fully  cultured  and  dry  weather  islands ; 
and  however  the  grass  is  obtained,  it  is  a  duty  of  the  slaves 
after  their  dismission  from  gang-work  in  the  field,  to  go  for 
it,  and  bring  in  their  individual  cuttings  or  collections  to  the 
homestall.  The  latter  proposition  seems  to  require  no  evi- 
dence ;  for  how  otherwise  could  the  horses  and  other  working 
cattle,  be  provendered  at  night  ? 

But  happily,  even  here,  I  have  express  authority  on  the 
colonial  side,  to  warrant  my  giving  the  result  of  anti-slavery 
information,  (for  such  I  admit  it  is)  without  any  violation  of 
my  rule.  I  refer  to  an  extract  before  given  from  the  Jamaica 
Report  of  1815,  (supra,  p.  115.)  where  one  of  the  witnesses. 

*  Remarks  on  the  situation  of  Negroes  in   Jamaica,  by  Mr.  Beckford 
p.  45. 

t  Hist,  of  the  West  Indies,  vol.  ii.  book  4.  chap.  .5. 

134  OJ  the  Excess  of  forced  Labour 

Mr.  Richards,  noticed  among  the  evening  labours  of  the 
slaves,  not  only  the  making  dung,  but  "  carrying  grass.'^  It 
is  true  he  spoke  of  these  as  labours  which  formerly  employed 
the  slaves  an  hour  after  dark,  but  it  was  in  that  point  alone 
that  any  improvement  was  alleged  or  hinted  in  this  respect, 
by  him  or  any  other  witness  ;  nor  can  any  change  be  supposed 
that  could  have  rendered  the  making  dung  and  carrying  grass 
less  necessary  than  before,  as  parts  of  the  ordinary  labours 
of  a  sugar  estate.  They  may  be  no  longer  performed  after 
dark,  though  the  various  and  vague  uses  of  that  term,  and  its 
correlatives,  throughout  the  report,  make  it  difficult  to  say 
whether  any  such  change  has,  or  even  is  affirmed  to  have 
taken  place  ;  but  if  grass  is  still  carried  by  the  slaves  of  Ja- 
maica in  the  evening,  it  must  be  after  seven  o'clock ;  and  in 
order  to  be  carried,  it  must  be  first  collected  and  formed  into 
bundles,  whether  by  plucking  or  cutting. 

For  these  reasons,  though  I  admit  the  drudgery  of  pro- 
viding food  for  the  cattle  and  live  stock,  to  be  less  onerous 
on  the  slaves  in  Jamaica  than  in  some  other  colonies,  it  must 
even  there,  form  no  inconsiderable  addition  to  the  daily  gang- 
work  or  labour  in  the  cane- pieces;  and  I  am  strongly  in- 
clined to  believe  that  if  the  time  it  occupies  could  be  ascer- 
tained, and  added  to  the  difference  of  gang-work  time  which 
I  have  noticed,  the  slaves  of  that  island  would  be  found  lit- 
tle benefited  by  the  distinction  ;  except  by  avoiding  in  a  great 
degree  the  innumerable  punishments  inflicted  in  other  colonies 
for  deficiencies  in  their  bundles  of  o  rass. 

This,  mdeed,  is  perfectly  natural ;  because  the  grand  prac- 
tical principle  pervading  the  whole  system,  and  the  necessary 
eflPect  also  of  avarice  long  spurred  on  by  commercial  compe- 
tition, is  the  exaction  from  the  poor  slaves  of  the  maximum 
of  labour,  that  their  time  and  strength  can,  without  certain 
and  speedy  destruction,  possibly  afford. 

But  let  me  now  resume  my  computation  of  the  actual 
time  of  labour.  —  It  has  been  sufficiently  shewn,  I  trust,  that 
this,  in  the  lightest  season  of  work,  would  be  most  falla- 
ciously and  inadequately  estimated,  by  counting  the  hours  only 
of  the  collective  labours  of  the  gang,  under  the  driver's'coer- 
cion  in  the  field  ;  though  such  is  the  uniform  rule  of  the  colonial 
apologists ;  and  it  has  been  shewn  to  be  the  result  of  their 

in  point  of  Time.  135 

own  data,  that  even  this  rule,  gives,  on  an  average,  not  less 
than  eleven  hours  and  a  half"  in  the  twenty-four;  except 
where  the  time  is  somewhat  shortened  in  order  to  extend 
in  an  equal  degree  the  harassing  process  of  grass-picking. 

What  addition,  then,  ought  to  be  made,  in  a  fair  estimate, 
for  what  we  cannot  call  the  voluntary,  or  unforced,  but  may 
define,  in  general,  as  the  solitary  labours  of  the  slaves,  in  order 
to  distinguish  them  from  those  of  the  collected  gangs,  per- 
formed in  the  presence  of  the  drivers,and  by  direct  compulsion  ? 

Some  of  their  solitary  toils,  such  as  their  walks  to  and 
from  the  place  of  the  morning  and  afternoon  muster,  will,  per- 
haps, be  undisputed  additions,  at  least  to  the  charges  on  their 
time,  and  abridgments  of  their  rest;  because  they  are  un- 
avoidable incidents  to  what  the  colonists  allow  to  be  "  work 
/or  the  master.''  But  I  must  take  leave  to  difier  from  them 
in  their  common  views  of  this  subject ;  and  to  add  also  to  the 
amount,  what  the  slaves  have  to  do  for  their  own  subsistence  ; 
though  this  is  treated  by  my  opponents  as  if  it  were  mere  re- 
laxation and  rest ;  or  as  if  labour  had  no  tendency  at  all  to 
weary  the  frames  of  the  slaves,  except  when  its  immediate 
subject  is  the  raising  or  manufacturing  of  sugar.* 

•  Though  such  views  are  too  preposterous  to  deserve  serious  refutation, 
it  may  be  right  to  shev?  that  they  have  been  and  still  are  gravely  and  ex- 
pressly maintained.  They  are  plainly  implied  in  all  the  numerous  state- 
ments and  calculations  I  have  cited,  which  reduce  the  hours  of  labour  to 
those  which  are  assigned  by  the  same  authorities  to  gang-'work  in  the  field ; 
or  which  count  the  time  of  labour  from  five  in  the  morning  to  seven  in  the 
evening,  deducting  two  hours  and  a  half  for  breakfast  and  dinner ;  and 
many  of  them  we  have  seen,  expressly  call  all  the  rest  of  the  twenty-four 
hours,  time  of  relaxation  and  rest. 

It  may,  however,  be  worth  remarking  here,  that  all  the  witnesses  exa- 
mined before  the  Privy  Council,  who  spoke  to  the  times  of  respite  or  relax- 
ation, did  so  in  answer  to  Q.  A.  No.  9,  which  was  in  the  following  terms : 
"  Are  any  days  or  hours  set  apart  in  which  the  slaves  may  labour  for  them- 
"  selves  ?"  and  that  it  was  in  answering  this  question  that  they  carefully 
took  credit,  not  only  for  the  Sabbath,  and  two  days  or  three  at  Christmas, 
and  for  an  occasional  Saturday  afternoon  out  of  crop,  but  for  the  two  hours 
respite  at  mid-day,  and  for  an  undefined  portion  of  time  after  the  evening 
dismission ;  in  other  words,  for  all  the  time  that  the  slaves  do,  or  possibly 
can  employ  in  raising  their  own  provisions.      They  all,  therefore,  plainly 

136  Of  the  Excess  of  forced  Labour 

Not  doubting  that  all  my  readers  who  are  not  slave-mas- 
ters, will  feel  with  me  on  this  point,  and  think  that  the  por- 
tions of  time  employed  in  the  culture  of  provision  grounds, 
or  unavoidably  spent  in  other  occupations  necessary  to 
the  slave's  support,  such  as  gathering  and  bringing  home 
the  produce  of  his  ground,  the  preparing  and  dressing  his 
food,  collecting  fuel,  and  drawing  and  carrying  water,  &c. 
ought  to  be  included  in  our  calculations  of  his  daily  toil, 
my  only  difficulty  will  be  to  shew,  what  in  point  of  time  is 
their  actual  amount;  which,  it  is  obvious,  as  to  the  daily 
respites  from  gang-work,  can  be  averaged  only  by  probable 

Let  it  be  supposed  that  an  hour  must,  on  a  medium, 
be  wanted  between  the  bell-ringing  on  the  first  approach 
of  dawn,  and  the  commencement  of  work  in  the  cane- 
piece,  and  two  hours  for  the  various  employments  that 
must  succeed  its  evening  termination,  before  the  slave  can 
retire  to  sleep  ;  and  let  it  be  further  supposed,  that  only 
one  hour  of  the  two  at  noon  is  employed,  on  an  average, 
in  any  laborious  way,  where  grass-picking  is  not  required 
at  that  period.  This,  when  we  take  into  account  the  walks 
to  and  from  the  field  at  noon,  of  all  who  do  not  lie  down  on 
the  spot,  will  be  thought,  I  trust,  a  very  moderate  estimate.  We 
shall  if  so,  have  to  add  four  hours  per  diem  of  solitary  labours, 
to  the  eleven  hours  and  a  half  of  gang-work  ;  making  together 
fifteen  hours  and  a  half  in  the  twenty-four :  in  which  calcu- 
lation I  regard  the  breakfast-time  as  entire  and  absolute  rest. 
But  to  preclude  all  objection  and  doubt,  and  take  every  thing 
below  the  truth,  I  will  strike  off  half  an  hour  from  that 
amount ;  and  suppose  fifteen  hours  only  to  be  the  average 
time  out  of  the  crop-season,  during  which  the  negro  is  either 
at  hard  work  in  the  field,  or  in  bodily  action  of  some  other 

considered  the  slave  when  raising  his  own  subsistence  ds  working  "for  him- 

Some  of  them  went  further,  expressly  giving  the  name  of  rest  and  "  ex- 
"  emption  from  labour,"  to  that  necessary  toil.  '  Sundays  throughout  the 
"  year"  said  the  agents  and  planters  of  Jamaica,  "  are  days  of  rest  which 
"  they  have  entirely  to  themselves."  "  Sunday,"  said  the  Council  of  Barba- 
does,  "  is  a  day  of  course  totally  exempt  from  labour."     Yet  see  supra,  131. 

in  point  of  Time.  137 

kind,  either  for  the  master's  immediate  benefit,  or   his  own 

Were  we  to  stop  here,  we  should  have  a  truly  appalling 
excess  of  oppression.  Even  in  this  climate,  it  would  be  so  ; 
more  especially  if  imposed  on  agricultural  labourers  ;  and  at 
all  seasons  of  the  year.  How  much  more  oppressive,  then,  in 
the  Torrid  Zone,  where  the  native  propensities  of  mankind 
are  so  strongly  opposed  to  arduous  long-continued  toil ;  and 
where  the  labourer,  while  working  under  the  solar  blaze,  is 
subject  to  an  exhausting  perspiration,  such  as  the  English 
peasant  is  rarely  annoyed  by,  even  in  our  summer  days.  But 
the  latter  works  on  an  averao;e  not  more  than  nine  hours,  as  I 
shall  hereafter  fully  shew. 

Much,  however,  of  the  sad  story  of  the  poor  sugar-planta- 
tion slave  is  yet  untold.  We  have  hitherto  considered  only 
his  labours  out  of  the  crop-season,  when  they  are  much  the 
lightest  in  point  of  time.  Let  us  next  enquire  what  they  are 
during  that  long-protracted  West  India  harvest,  called  the 
time  of  crop. 

We  have  before  seen  that  the  comparative  severity  of 
forced  labour  during  that  large  portion  of  the  year,  is  uni- 
versally admitted  ;  and  that  its  diurnal  continuance  is  quite 
unlimited  by  law.  The  meliorating  acts  have  prudently  got 
rid  of  the  subject,  by  leaving  it  wholly  unnoticed,  and  con- 
fining their  regulations  to  the  season  out  of  crop  alone. 

During  the  crop-months,  the  planter's  profits  depend  more 
even  than  they  do  at  other  seasons,  on  the  quantum  of  labour 
that  he  compels  his  slaves  to  perform  in  a  given  time ;  for 
there  is  danger  of  much  detriment,  both  in  the  quality  and 
quantity  of  his  produce,  if  the  canes  are  not  cut  and  ground, 
and  their  juice  manufactured  by  boiling,  with  all  possible  ex- 
pedition, as  soon  as  they  are  ripe  enough  for  the  purpose; 
and  the  consequence  is,  that  forced  labour  has  no  limits,  but 
such  as  nature  irresistibly  prescribes.  Both  by  day  and  by 
night  the  negroes  are  put  to  the  full  stretch  of  their  physical 

Lest  these  propositions  should  be  thought  too  strong  at 
the  outset,  let  me  here  cite  a  recent  report  of  the  venerable 
Church  Society  for  promoting  Christian  Knoivledge.  The  Right 
Reverend   Governors,   who  must  have  concurred,  at  least  in 

138  Of  the  Excesa  of  forced  Labour 

framing  that  report,  will  not  be  suspected  of  exaggeration ; 
and  yet  it  has  the  following  passage : — "The  task  of  con- 
"  veying  religious  instruction  to  uneducated  adults  is  rendered 
*'  doubly  difficult  in  the  case  of  the  negro,  who  is  kept  to 
**  hard  labour  at  all  seasons  of  the  year,  and  works  during 
"  the  harvest  with  the  least  possible  intei'tnission."* 

I  have  already  shewn  the  former  proposition  too  well 
founded  ;  and  shall  soon  prove  the  latter  literally  true. 

To  enable  my  readers  to  judge  what  the  practice  generally 
is  in  the  crop  months,  I  will  here  cite,  as  I  have  done  in  re- 
spect of  the  labour  out  of  crop,  a  few  authorities  relative  to 
different  sugar  colonies,  and  at  different  periods,  from  the 
first  public  enquiries  to  the  present  time ;  from  which  it  will 
appear,  as  in  the  former  case,  that  the  practice  is  strikingly 
uniform  throughout  the  West  Indies,  and  has,  during  forty 
years  at  least,  received  no  mitigation. 

To  begin  with  the  Privy  Council  Report  and  Parliamen- 
tary evidence  of  1790. 

"  Crop-time,  our  harvest,"  said  the  legislative  council  of 
Jamaica,  "  may  be  deemed  hard  labour,  as  the  work  in  the 
"  boiling  houses  is  continued  day  and  night."f 

"  When  I  speak  of  the  ease  of  labour,"  said  Sir  Ralph 
Payne,  afterwards  Lord  Lnvington,  who  spoke  chiefly  of 
Antigua  and  St.  Kitts),  "  I  speak  of  it  comparatively  with 
"  that  of  a  day-labourer  in  England  ;"  (he  had  before  made, 
as  we  have  seen,  that  extravagant  comparison)  "  and  I 
"  meant  principally  out  of  crop.  Li  crop  time  the  labour  is 
"  certainly  sever eS'X 

"  A  field  negro,"  said  Mr.  Campbell,  an  eminent  planter  of 
Grenada,  "  is  the  same  time  at  labour  at  crop-time,  as  out 
*'  of  crop-time ;  but  in  Grenada  and  the  other  ceded  islands, 
"  we  keep  about  the  works  and  the  boiling  of  sugar  all  night ; 
**  from  which  circumstance,  we  commonly  divide  our  gang 
"  into  three  spells  of  boilers,  people  to  attend  the  mill,  fire- 
"  men,  and  men  to  carry  out  cane-trash.  This  work  requires 
"  the  labour  of  from  twenty  to  thirty  slaves,  according  to  the 

*  Report  for  1828,  p.  55. 

t  Privy  Council  Report,  Q.  A.  No.  36. 

t  Commons  Report  of  1790,  p.  442. 

ill  point  oj' Time.  139 

"  number  of  coppers  that  are  boiling.  These  spells  are  changed 
"  at  midnight,  so  that  it  only  comes  on  every  third  night  that 
"  they  lose  their  rest  of  six  hours,  and  when  estates  are  fully 
"  slaved,  there  are  often  four  spells."* 

Dr.  Athill,  a  planter  of  Antigua,  gave  a  detail  of  the  num- 
ber of  slaves  necessary  for  the  various  works  at  the  boiling 
house,  and  added,  "  they  amount,  in  the  whole,  when  all  the 
**  work,  is  going  on  with  spirit,  to  between  twenty  and  thirty 
"  negroes,  so  that  there  are  few  left  to  cut  the  canes,  drive 
"  the  cart,  and  do  the  other  work,  except  on  very  well-handed 
"  estates. "f 

That  there  were  in  this  respect  few  "  very  well-handed,"  or 
to  use  Mr.  Campbell's  phrase,  ^^ fully  slaved  estates,"  was 
manifest  from  the  statements  of  almost  every  witness  to  whom 
the  standing  question,  whether  the  Islands  were  sufficiently 
stocked  with  slaves,  was  put.  The  last  cited  witness,  for  ex- 
ample, said  in  answer  to  a  question.  Whether  the  estates  in 
Antigua  were  to  his  knowledge,  during  his  stay  there,  pro- 
perly stocked  ?  "  By  far  the  greater  part  were  not ;  some  few 
"  estates  had  perhaps  more  than  they  required. "J  And  he 
further  stated,  that  "  on  some  estates  the  canes  are  cut  one 
"  day  and  ground  the  next,  from  the  planter  not  having 
"  sufficient  negroes  to  supplij  the  sugar  works  and  the  Jield  at 
"the  same  time."^  Yet  Antigua  in  this  respect  was  gene- 
rally considered  as  one  of  the  most  fortunate  of  our  islands. 
It  is  manifest,  therefore,  that  the  case  of  estates  so  "  fully 
"  slaved,"  as  to  supply  four  spells,  must  have  been  very  rare 
indeed.  If  so  before  the  abolition,  it  must  of  course  be  still 
rarer  now.  But  as  those  who  are  still  credulous  enough  to 
listen  to  the  oft-told  and  oft-retracted  tale,  of  humane  im- 
provements, may  doubt,  perhaps,  whether  some  expedient 
has  not  been  found  to  relieve  the  wearied  slaves  from  night 
labour  after  the  toils  of  the  day,  I  will  show  what  the  prac- 
tice still  is,  or  was  at  least,  so  recently  as  1825,  on  the  deci- 
sive authority  of  Mr.  De  la  Beche. 

Speaking  of  his  own  estate,  he  says,  "  During  crop  time, 
"  which  generally  lasts  about  four  months,  |1  the  negroes  are 

*  Ibid.  139.  t  Ibid.  328.  |  Ibid.  323.  §  Ibid.  339. 

II  This  should  have  been  about  Jive,  unless  the  other  planters  I  have 
to  cite,  are  mistaken,  or  there  is  something  peculiar  on  his  estate. 

140  Of  the  Excess  of  forced  Labour 

"  in  consequence  of  being  but  comparatively  few  on  this 
"  estate,  divided  into  two  spells,  which  relieve  each  other 
"  every  twelve  hours,  viz.  at  noon  and  at  midnight ;  thus  al- 
"  lowing  half  the  night  for  work,  and  half  for  rest,  during  five 
'*  days  in  the  week  ;  the  whole  of  the  remaining  two  nights, 
"  those  of  Saturday  and  Sunday,  being  their  own  hi/  laiv."* 
(I  doubt  not  he  might  have  added  by  practice,  too,  on  his  oivn 
estate,  at  least  while  he  was  there).  In  another  place,  he 
says,  "  On  sugar  estates,  where  the  negroes  are  numerous,  in 
"  proportion  to  the  land  cultivated,  the  people  are  divided 
"  into  three  and  four  spells  during  crop-time  :  on  properties 
"  where  the  numbers  are  not  so  great,  into  two."'!' 

Here,  then,  we  have  a  clear  admission  that  the  case  now  is 
no  better,  if  not  worse,  than  it  was  forty  years  ago ;  even  on 
the  estate  of  this  liberal  and  benevolent  planter.  Even  his 
slaves  work  eighteen  hours  out  of  the  twenty-four  in  crop 
time  ;  and  though  he  says  they  have  the  remainder  for  rest, 
he  cannot  mean,  and  I  am  sure  did  not  desire  to  be  understood, 
that  they  have  six  hoursybr  sleep,  before  the  renewal  of  their 
daily  toil ;  for  the  twelve  hours  which  he  regards  as  the  night, 
comprise  the  whole  interval  between  their  evening  dismission 
from  field-work,  and  the  morning  muster  ;  and  this,  even  if 
we  should  assign  to  both  the  hour  of  six,  which  I  have  shewn 
to  be  inconsistent  with  the  most  favourable  colonial  evidence, 
more  especially  during  the  summer  solstice,  to  which  the  crop- 
months  chiefly  belong.  Supposing,  however,  that  the  slaves 
who  are  dismissed  from  the  field  at  six,  and  take  then  their 
six  hours'  spell  at  nightwork  till  midnight,  are  not  mustered 
in  the  field  till  six  the  next  morning,  they  obviously  cannot 
have  six  hours  intermediate  rest,  in  any  proper  sense  of 
that  word  ;  as  they  have  their  supper  to  prepare,  and  the 
other  ordinary  and  necessary  functions  of  the  evening  to 
perform,  and  to  walk  to  the  morning  rendezvous  in  the  field, 
after  their  brief  slumber  has  been  disturbed  by  the  rousing 

*  Notes  on  the  present  condition  of  the  slaves  in  Jamaica,  p.  7. 
t  Ibid.  22. 

I  A  new  parliamentary  document  has,  while  I  am  revising  these  sheets  for 
the  printer,  for  the  first  time  met  my  eye.     It   is   entitled,  "  Protector  of 

in  point  of  Time.  141 

Ft  has  been  alleged,  as  an  extenuation  of  these  oppressive 
hardships,  that  the   more   weakly  slaves   are  commonly  ex- 

Slaves  Reports,"  and  is  printed  by  an  order  of  the  House  of  Commons 
of  June  12th,  1829  ;  and  as  it  incidentally  throws  much  light  on  this  sub- 
ject of  nocturnal  labour  in  crop-time,  I  will  insert  some  extracts  from  it 

Some  limitation  to  that  branch  of  oppression  had  been  prescribed  by  one 
of  the  ordinances,  that  of  September,  1826,  emanating  from  the  local  au- 
thorities at  Berbice,  but  under  the  positive  direction  of  the  crown,  which 
has  legislative  power  in  that  colony.  It  fixed,  as  the  Protector  observes 
(p.  17),  no  express  limit  to  any  other  than  field  labour,  and  work  on 
Saturday  night,  which  is  directed  to  end  at  ten  o'clock.  The  Protector, 
however,  supposed,  that  by  the  spirit  and  general  intention  of  the  ordi- 
nance, the  same  limitation  ought  to  be  extended  to  the  other  days  of  the 
week ;  and  finding  the  practice  to  be  as  often  as  planters  thought  fit,  to 
work  their  slaves  by  spells  through  the  night,  without  any  remission  of 
their  daily  labours  either  before  or  aftei",  he  submitted  the  point  to  the 
opinion  of  the  fiscal,  and  king's  advocate,  the  crown  lawyers  of  the 

From  the  former  he  received  in  answer  a  very  planter-like  and  argu- 
mentative opinion  as  to  the  necessities  or  convenience  of  the  case;  but  no 
clear  or  consistent  solution  of  the  question  arising  on  the  ordinance  in 
point  of  law;  though  he  says,  "  The  law  of  nature  7'equl?es  u  cessation 
"  fioin  labow  at  night  after  the  toil  of  the  day." 

The  King's  Advocate,  Mr.  Dalij,  spoke  more  directly  and  satisfactorily  ; 
saying  that,  "  as  the  ordinance  regulated  the  time  for  field-labour  to  be 
"  from  six  o'clock  in  the  morning  till  six  o'clock  in  the  evening,  it  was 
"  never  contemplated  by  its  framers  that  the  same  slave  should  perform 
"  his  daily  work  in  the  field,  and  still  be  liable  to  labour  during  the  night." 

The  question  immediately  arose  from  the  complaints  of  four  female 
slaves  to  the  protector,  that  after  having  been  employed  in  cutting  canes 
in  the  field  during  the  day,  they  were,  about  nine  o'clock  at  night,  after 
they  had  gone  to  bed,  called  up  to  go  and  carry  magoss  from  the  mill ; 
that  they  were  employed  at  that  work  all  the  night  until  ten  o'clock  the 
next  day,  when  they  had  no  "  tie  tie  "  (ligatures  made  from  the  cane  trash 
to  tie  up  the  bundles  of  magoss)  left  to  take  the  magoss  from  the  mill ; 
that  they  were  then  employed  to  put  magoss  into  the  sun  to  dry  for  the 
firemen.  That  about  five  o'clock  in  the  evening  (i,  e.  of  the  second  day), 
they  went  into  the  field  to  get  the  tie  tie,  and  brought  it  home.  That  they 
then  went  to  the  manager,  and  told  him  thei/  ivere  weary,  and  he  answered, 
"  Well,  when  the  other  people  break  off,  you  can  go  home."  What  that 
time  was  is  not  stated  ;  but  it  may  be  collected  from  the  rest  of  the  case, 
not  sooner  than  twelve  at  niglit.  The  next  morning  they  begged  the 
manager  to  let  them  have  thri'e  additional  hands  to  take  away  the  magoss  in 

142  Of' the  Excess  of  forced  Labour 

empted  from  the  night-work.     But  granting  this,  what  does 
it  prove  ?     Only  that  the  extremity  of  watching  and  toil  attend- 

the  mill-house,  "  but  he  said  no,  and  told  them  to  go  and  cut  canes  in  the 

Such  applications  to  the  manager  from  the  poor  wearied  females,  who 
had  had  by  their  account,  not  more  than  three  hours  rest  in  thirty-six, 
may  seem  no  great  offence ;  but  for  this  they  were  not  only  deprived  of 
their  Christmas  holidays,  a  severe  punishment  to  the  slaves,  but  kept  in 
solitari/  confinement  in  the  dungeon,  or  clarkliouse,  with  both,  feet  in  the  stocks 
for  four  days  and  nights.  This  complaint  was  in  part  denied  by  the  mana- 
ger; but  only  as  to  the  point  of  the  women  having  been  called  up  the  first 
night  at  nine  o'clock.  lie  merely  alleged  they  were  not  called  till  twelve. 
The  following  is  his  whole  defence  : — 

"  Alexander  M'Donald,  manager  of  Plantation  Smithson's  Place,  having 
"  heard  the  complaint  of  the  slaves,  Bella,  Emma,  Acconba,  and  Sybella, 
''denies  the  accusation  against  him  for  being  called  up  at  jijwe  o'clock  to 
*'  carry  magoss  from  the  mill  on  the  night  of  the  1 8th  December  last ;  and 
"  v)ith  regard  to  their  complaint  of  being  in  the  stocks  during  the  time 
"  they  wei-e  in  confinement  at  the  holidays,  says,  he  conceives  it  to  be  in  ac- 
"  cordance  with  the  regulations,  and  that  he  had  the  power  to  do  it,"  p.  20. 

He  called  three  witnesses,  his  overseer  and  two  slaves,  who  stated  that  it 
was  the  turn  of  those  women  to  take  a  spell,  and  that  it  was  at  twelve  o'clock 
not  nine  when  they  were  called  up.  (Same  page.) 

Here  we  find  that  there  was  no  pretence  of  more  than  two  spells.  The 
women  had  to  take  their  nightly  turn  at  the  mill  from  twelve  o'clock  at 
least,  though  not  from  nine,  without  any  relief  from  the  field-work  of  the 
preceding  or  the  following  day  ;  and  were  denied  any  rest  on  the  evening 
of  the  last,  till  relieved  at  midnight  by  the  other  alternate  spell  with  the 
rest  of  the  gang. 

But  the  examination  of  Sandy,  the  head  boiler,  one  of  the  defendant's 
witnesses,  is  well  worth  a  further  extract. 

Q.  "  When  people  work  at  the  mill  from  the  time  it  goes  about  at  the 
"  hours  you  have  mentioned,  (viz.  sometimes  at  twelve  at  night,  sometimes 
"  at  ten  or  eleven)  until  daylight  the  next  morning,  what  becomes  of  them 
'  afterwards?  Do  they  go  to  work  all  next  day,  or  do  they  break  off  and  go 
"  to  sleep?" 

A.  "  J'hey  never  break  off;  they  go  on  working  all  the  next  day." 

Q.  "  What  are  the  hours  for  boiling  sugar  on  Plantation  Smithson's 
"  Place." 

A.  "  We  begin  about  four  o'clock  in  tlie  morning,  and  keep  at  it  till 
"  eight  at  night ;  we  then  go  to  sleep,  and  I  have  to  get  up  at  eleven  to 
"  see  them  pot  sugar.  This  takes  about  two  hours."  (Here  the  witness 
apparently  speaks  of  the  boilers  only.) 

Q.  "  Do  you  go  to  sleep  after  this  till  four  o'clock." 

A    "  No.     I  have  to  see  the  coppers  cleaned." 

in  point  of  Time.  143 

ing  it  are  found  to  be  such  as  the  feeble  cannot  possibly  endure. 
It  is  admitted  that  there  is  very  commonly  a  want  of  hands  to 
alleviate  the  general  pressure  by  forming  an  adequate  number 
of  spells  or  reliefs.  It  would,  therefore,  be  to  wrong  the  under- 
standings, and  even  further  to  impeach  the  humanity  of  the 
planters,  if  we  supposed  that  they  would  have  only  two  spells 
or  reliefs,  instead  of  three,  or  three  instead  of  four,  at  the  night 
work,  thereby  subjecting  their  slaves  so  much  oftener  in  the 
week,  to  such  long  continued  watching  and  labour,  if  they 
could  avoid  it  by  employing  a  greater  portion  of  their  gangs 
capable  of  such  arduous  service. 

Q.  "  Do  the  other  sugar  boilers  keep  the  same  hours,  or  is  it  only  the 
"  head  boiler  that  is  required  to  see  the  sugar  potted  ?" 

A.  "The  other  boilers  are  called  up  at  the  same  time;  but  their  duty  is 
"to  clean  the  coppers."  (p.  20,  21.) 

Thus  it  appears  that  the  boilers  have  not  more  than  three  hours'  rest,  or 
rather  three  hours  of  respite,  in  the  twenty-four ;  and  another  of  the  defend- 
ant's witnesses  shew  that  the  potters  fare  no  better. 

Q.  "  What  sort  of  people  are  the  sugar  potters  ?  I  mean  how  old  are 
"  they." 

A.  "  I  cannot  say  exactly  how  old  they  are.  They  are  young  Creoles, 
"  both  boys  and  girls.'' 

Q.  "  How  long  were  these  young  Creoles  employed  to  pot  sugar  on  the 
"  night  you  speak  of." 

A.  "They  continued  potting  about  three  in  the  morning,  when  they  went 
"home  to  sleep."  (p.  20.) 

Such  is  the  practice  of  night-work  and  day-work  during  crop  in  this 

Mr.  M'Queen  had  the  effrontery  to  assert,  in  1825,  that  the  former  had 
been  in  general  abolished.  "  Formerly  it  was  a  general  custom  during  crop 
"to  make  sugar  during  the  night.  It  is  still  in  some  places  the  practice,  &c. 
"  In  a  very  short  time  night-work  would  be  altogether  unknown  in  the  co- 
"lonies,  were  the  planters  left  alone,"  &c.  (p.  261,  2.) 

The  reader,  I  hope,  will  remember  that  the  same  statements  were  made 
to  Parliament  forty  years  ago,  yet  by  this  latest  official  document  on  the 
subject,  the  practice  appears  to  continue  in  rather  more  than  the  former 
degree  of  rigour,  even  in  a  colony  where  there  was  a  legislative  ordinance, 
by  the  plain  intent  of  which  night-work  was  prohibited. 

The  Plantation  Smithson's  Place,  was  not  the  only  one  from  which  com- 
plaints were  brought  to  the  Protector  ;  but  he  found  it  in  vain  to  prosecute, 
even  for  the  cruel  treatment  of  the  poor  women  on  that  estate.  "  I  have 
forborne,"  he  says,  in  his  report  to  the  Governor,  "  to  press  this  matter  in 
"  the  shape  of  a  prosecution;  being  apprehensive  of  failure,"  (p.  18.)  no  un- 
reasonable apprehension,  certainly,  as  those  who  read  the  Fiscal's  opinion, 
will  admit. 

144  Of  the  Excess  of  forced  Laliouv 

The  apologists  of  night-work,  nevertheless,  are  fond  of 
telling  us  that  only  a  small  part  of  the  gang  is  employed  in  it ; 
and  Barclay's  work,  in  its  usual  spirit,  diminishes  the  number 
from  between  twenty  and  thirty,  which  was  stated  both  by  Mr. 
Athill  and  Mr.  Campbell  as  its  ordinary  amount,  to  eighteen. 
It  is  added,  that  such  was  the  proportion  on  an  estate  with 
two  hundred  labourers;  evidently  with  an  aim  to  convey  the 
idea  of  there  being  so  many  effective  workmen,  though  with 
an  explanation,  doubtless  in  reserve,  that  negroes  or  slaves  were 
meant.*  The  inuendo  to  unwary  European  readers,  is  that 
the  hardship  is  imposed  but  on  a  few  of  the  many  who  are  able 
to  sustain  it ;  whereas  West  Indians  well  know  that  in  a  gang 
of  all  ages,  scarcely  one  third,  deducting  the  drivers,  trades- 
men, and  artificers,  are  strong  enough  for  the  heavier  labours 
of  the  plantation,  including  the  night-work  in  crop-time. 
With  the  same  deceptious  view,  it  is  left  unnoticed,  that  the 
eighteen  or  twenty-five  in  constant  employ  at  the  boiling- 
house,  must  be  multiplied  by  the  number  of  spells,  in  order  to 
find  the  true  amount  of  the  labourers  to  whom  night-work  is 
assigned.  Now  the  same  author  or  authors,  in  an  elaborate 
attempt  to  refute  the  Rev.  Mr.  Cooper,  contend  for  the  use  in 
one  instance  at  least,  of  four  spells -f- ;  supposing  which,  slaves 
employed  on  night-work  would,  on  their  own  deceptious  enu- 
meration be  seventy-two;  on  the  true  one,  about  one  hundred; 
and  even  the  smaller  number  might  be  enough  to  prevent  the 
exemption  of  one  man  or  woman  on  the  estate  capable  of  sus- 
taining the  work.  ;|; 

Let  it  not  be  supposed,  however,  that  the  exposure  of  these 
fallacies  is  at  all  necessary  to  support  my  strictures  on  night- 
work.     If  the  numbers  coerced   to  its  performance,  were  less 

*  Barclay,  p.  416.  f  Ibid.  414-15. 

X  See  the  citation  from  Mr.  de  la  Beche,  supra,  p.  139,  140.  That  gentle- 
man had  two  hundred  and  eight  slaves  on  his  estate,  as  appears  by  the  public 
returns;  yet  he  fairly  ack no wleges  his  inability  to  muster  more  than  two 
spells.  If  the  curious  attempt  to  refute  Mr.  Cooper  above  referred  to,  is 
thought  to  be  founded  in  truth,  we  may  see  in  it,  that  Mr.  de  la  B.  was  im- 
posed on,  and  /low,  in  his  own  belief  that  four  spells  were  in  use  on  some 
other  estates.  They  count  double, it  would  appear,  in  Jamaica;  making  two 
spells  amount  to  four.     See  the  passage. 

in  point  of  Time.  145 

than  they  miglit  be,  so  much  the  more  inexcusable  would  be 
the  practice.  If  the  numbers  could  be  doubled,  then  instead 
of  six  hours  watching  and  work  by  night,  after  the  hard  la- 
bours of  the  day,  which  even  Mr.  Barclay  admits  to  be  their 
lot  thrice  in  the  week,  three  hours  would  suffice. 

"  The  attendance  of  the  spells,  says  Dr.  Collins,  should 
*'  never  be  so  far  prolonged  as  to  disallow  of  their  taking  a 
"  few  hours'  rest  every  night ;  as  they  can  ill  bear  a  long  priva- 
"  tion  of  sleep  ;  and  under  such  circumstances  will  doze  at 
"  the  mill  or  coppers,  to  the  great  danger  of  their  fingers,  if 
"  not  of  their  lives.  As  to  the  weaker  negroes,  they  should 
**  never  do  any  night-work  ;  and  in  order  to  reconcile  the 
"  others  on  whom  the  labour  will  fall,  to  such  an  indulgence, 
"  which  will  appear  unjust  and  partial,  you  must  make  it  up 
"  to  them  in  one  way  or  other  ;  either  by  suffering  them  to 
"  remain  in  their  houses  later  in  the  morning,  or  by  some 
"  addition  of  food,  or  if  that  be  not  wanted,  by  extraordinary 
"  clothing,  which  will  in  general  go  a  great  way  towards 
"  the  satisfying  them.*  It  is  impossible  to  suppose,  after 
reading  such  advice  from  this  long-experienced  planter,  that 
exemptions  of  slaves  in  the  great,  or  strong  gangs,  or  of  any 
but  the  very  weakly,  were  usually  made  under  the  ordinary 
practice,  t 

*  Practical  Rules,  &c.  p.  184-5. 

f  That  boys  and  girls  are  not  generally  exempted  from  these  nocturnal 
duties,  may  appear  from  one  of  the  descriptive  passages  of  that  new 
champion  of  the  planters  before  noticed,  who  has  assumed  the  guise  of  a 
novelist,  (Marly,  p.  39.)  His  hero  is  kept  awake  in  his  bed  through  the 
night  by  the  various  noises  incident  to  the  brisk  labours  of  the  adjoining 
boiling-house,  and  among  them  is  enumerated  "  the  squalling  of  near  a 
"  dozen  of  girls  and  boys,  who  were  seated  on  the  shafts  of  the  gin,  forcing 
"  on  the  mules  that  turned  the  mill."  These  drivers  are  wholly  omitted  in 
Mr.  Barclay's  enumeration. 

Here  let  me  quote  again  the  pamphlet  of  Mr.  Dwarris.  "  It  should 
*'  not  escape  attention,"  he  says,  "  when  speaking  of  the  labour  exacted 
"  in  crop-time  (constantly  dwelt  upon  by  the  abolitionists  as  oppressive 
"  on  account  of  its  uncertain  [he  should  have  said  euormoits^  duration), 
"  that,  as  windmills  are  commonly  used  in  the  islands,  there  will  ne- 
"  cessarily  be  many   days   when   the    mill    cannot   work,  for  an    unan- 

VOL.   II.  L 

146  Of  the  Excess  oj  forced  Labour 

Mr.  De  la  Beche,  while  he  admits,  as  we  have  seen,  the 
severity  of  labour  in  crop-time,  attempts  to  excuse  the  prac- 
tice, as  all  other  colonial  writers,  with  a  striking  uniformity- 
have  done,  by  observing  that  the  negroes  are  the  best  satisfied, 
and  he  might  have  added,  like  the  rest,  the  healthiest  also, 
at  that  season.  He  further  informs  us,  that  the  negroes  on 
pens  and  coffee  properties,  where  they  have  no  night-work, 
and  no  cane-holes  to  dig,  and  where  it  may  be  generally 
stated  that  the  labour  is  lighter,  consider  themselves  less  for- 
tunate than  those  on  sugar-estates,  because  the  negroes  seem  to 
enjoy  crop-time  ;  '*  at  least,"  he  adds,  '^  they  are  decidedly 
more  merry  then,  than  at  any  other  period,  except  Christ- 

I  am  far  from  questioning  the  facts  of  this  defence,  or  even 
the  respectable  author's  candour  in  the  use  he  makes  of  them  ; 
for  he  had  been  only  a  year  in  the  West  Indies,  and  then,  as 
it  would  appear,  only  in  Jamaica,  where  I  believe  the  slaves 
are,  in  general,  better  fed  out  of  crop-time,  than  in  most  of 
the  other  colonies.     But  there  probably  was  not  one  among 

"  swerable  reason,  because  there  is  no  wind.''  —  The  West  India  Question, 
p.  17,  18. 

Does  this  gentleman,  then,  mean  us  to  understand,  that  planters  who 
have  windmills,  have  not  in  general  cattle-mills  also,  to  be  worked  by 
mules  or  horses,  when  the  former,  for  want  of  sufficient  wind,  or  accidents, 
cannot  be  used  ?  That  would  be  often  to  hazard  the  partial  loss  or  dete- 
rioration of  their  ripened  crops ;  and  is  an  improvidence,  of  which  I 
believe  there  are  few,  if  any  examples.  To  have  cattle-mills  without  a  wind- 
mill, is  a  very  common,  nay,  the  most  ordinary  case  in  the  Leeward  Islands  ; 
but  the  converse  of  it,  is  one  which,  though  I  was  for  eleven  years  resident 
there,  I  cannot  recollect  an  instance  of;  and  I  well  remember  that  the 
common-place  economical  argument  against  being  at  the  charge  of  erecting 
a  windmill,  of  which  a  great  majority  of  the  estates  in  the  Leeward  Islands 
are  destitute,  was,  that  though  it  would  save  much  cattle  labour,  and  con- 
sequent loss  of  live  stock,  it  could  not  relieve  the  planter  from  the  ne- 
cessity of  keeping  a  competent  number  of  mules  or  horses,  as  a  safeguard 
to  his  crop,  when  calms  or  light  winds  prevailed. 

Were  there  not  this  latent  fallacy  in  Mr.  Dwarris's  "  unansiveruble^ 
argument,  it  would  still  shew  how  hard-driven  he  was  for  some  extenua- 
tion of  the  practice.  To  what  would  it  amount,  but  that  planters  abate 
some  small  part  of  the  hard  drudgery  of  their  slaves,  when  physical  necessity 
compels  them  to  do  so  ?     I  believe  it,  —  and  I  believe  no  more. 

*  Notes,  &c.  p.  8.21.22. 

in  poinl  of  Time.  147 

the  many  long-experienced  planters  examined  before  parlia- 
ment or  the  privy  conncil,  who  carefully  added  the  facts  of 
superior  content,  cheerfulness,  and  health  in  crop-time,  to 
their  admission  of  its  severe  labours,  who  was  not  conscious 
of  two  explanations,  that  would  destroy  the  whole  effect  of 
that  apology,  one  of  which  adds  to  the  discredit  of  their  general 
system.  The  first  is,  that  the  crop-months  are  to  the  inhabit- 
ants of  the  islands  of  all  classes  and  colonies,  the  healthiest 
part  of  the  year,  and  that  the  rainy  and  hurricane  seasons, 
which  begin  after  the  crop,  and  terminate  before  its  re-com- 
mencement, are  those  in  which  the  epidemical  diseases  so 
frequently  and  fatally  prevalent  in  that  part  of  the  world, 
usually  occur.  Diseases  of  debility,  especially,  which  ill- 
fed  slaves  are  naturally  very  liable  to,  prevail  most  at  that 
season  ;  and  it  is  then,  also,  that  they  are  most  frequently  ex- 
posed to  be  chilled  by  the  rains,  which  fall  in  torrents  upon 
them  during  theirlaboursin  the  fields,  drenching  them  through 
their  flimsy  garments  in  a  minute,  and  most  commonly  when 
they  are  heated  and  copiously  perspiring  from  the  effects  of 
their  exertions ;  for  it  may  be  added,  that  this  is  also  the 
chief  time  of  the  holing  process,  the  severest  species  of  their 

The  other  and  more  important  explanation,  is  one  that  the 
reader  will  be  better  able  to  appreciate  when  I  have  given  an 
account  of  the  general  practice  in  regard  to  food ;  but  he  will, 
perhaps,  anticipate  its  nature,  when  possessed  of  a  further 
extract  from  Mr.  De  la  Beche ;  "  if,"  he  says,  "  the  canes 
"  then,  i.  e.  in  crop-time,  give  them  additional  trouble,  they 
''  amply  compensate  themselves ;  for  they  eat  as  many  as  they 
''  phase,  and  drink  as  much  hot  and  cold  cane-juice  as  they  think 
"  proper,"  8ic.* 

*  All  the  witnesses  I  have  above  alluded  to  were  not  cautious  enough  to 
withhold  this  latter  explanation.  I  will  not  here  anticipate  the  evidence  I  have 
to  adduce  as  to  the  great  penury  of  food  out  of  crop-time,  and  which  will 
make  it  highly  credible,  that  the  addition  of  a  beverage  so  nutritious  as 
the  juice  of  the  cane,  must  produce  very  powerful  effects  ;  counterpoising, 
perhaps,  in  general,  the  debilitating  tendency  of  the  additional  labour  and 
watching.  Many  planters,  though  they  would  not  admit  the  inadequacy 
of  subsistence  out  of  crop,  thought  it  advantageous  to  their  cause  to  take 


148  Of  the  Excess  of  forced  Labour 

But  let  us  enquire  what  the  additional  time  of  labour  in 
crop-time  actually  is. 

To  suppose  that  the  plantations  in  Jamaica,  and  the  other 
colonies  collectively,  are  so  well  supplied  with  slaves,  that 
the  number  of  spells  they  can  conniionly  afford  is  three,  will 
be  felt,  after  the  remarks  and  evidence  I  have  offered,  to  be 
more  than  sufficiently  liberal.  I  doubt  not  it  would  be  very 
far  beyond  the  truth.  Mr.  Barclay'syb//r  spells  will  be  found 
on  comparison,  to  correspond  exactly  with  what  Mr.  De 
la  Beche  admits  to  be  but  two.  But  I  will  suppose  three  spells, 
for  the  sake  of  avoiding  all  disputable  or  disputed  pre- 
mises, and  taking  every  thing  of  that  kind  at  the  lowest.  I  will 
also  suppose  that  the  law  as  to  the  exceptions  on  the  nights  of 
Saturday  and  Sunday,  is  (very  contrary  to  what  anti-slavery 
writers  allege)  fairly  adhered  to  in  general  practice  ;  though  we 
have  seen  that  even  the  Royal  Ordinance  at  Berbice  permits 
working  on  Saturday  night  till  ten.  Still,  after  these  ample 
concessions,  the  result  will  be,  that  all  the  slaves  employed  in 
night-work,  during  the  crop,  labour  on  an  average,  in  that 
season,  above  three  hours  and  a  half  in  the  twenty-four,  in  ad- 
dition to  their  ordinary  day's  work. 

My  calculation  is  this.  From  six  in  the  evening,  to  six  in 
the  morning,  the  time  of  night-work,  is  twelve  hours,  which 
with  the  deduction  of  the  nights  of  Saturday  and  Sunday,  as 
claimed  by  Mr.  De  la  Beche,  gives  sixty  hours  per  week ;  and 
the  six  hours  from  Friday  at  midnight,  to  six  on  Saturday 
morning  being  added,  the  amount  is  sixty-six,  which  divided 
by  three,  the  supposed  number  of  spells,  gives  twenty-two 
hours  weekly  to  each  spell,  or  three  hours  and  forty  minutes, 
per  diem,  during  an  entire  working  week  of  six  days,  in  ad- 
dition to  the  daily  labour. 

large  credit  for  the  restorative  effects  of  tlie  cane-juice  during  the  boiling 
season.  But  the  following  extract  from  the  work,  of  their  great  champion, 
Mr.  Bryan  Edwards,  may  here  suffice: — 

"  The  time  of  crop  in  the  sugar-islands  is  the  season  of  gladness  and 
"  festivity  to  man  and  beast.  So  palatable,  salutary,  and  nourishing  is  the 
"juice  of  the  cane,  that  every  individual  of  the  animal  creation  drinking 
"freely  of  it,  derives  health  and  vigour  from  its  use.  The  meagre  and  sickly 
"  among  the  negroes  exhibit  a  surprising  alteration  a  few  weeks  after  the  mill 
"  is  set  in  action,"  he. — History  of  the  West  Indies,  vol.  ii.  p.  221. 

in  point  of  Time.  149 

To  find  the  amount  of  this  augmentation  on  an  average 
of  work  throughout  the  year,  we  must  next  ascertain  the  or- 
dinary length  of  the  crop-season. 

The  Jamaica  witnesses  we  have  seen,  made  it  five  months  ; 
and  Mr.  Bryan  Edwards  seems  to  fully  confirm  that  estimate, 
for  he  says,  "  the  canes  should  be  ripe  for  the  mill  in  the  be- 
"  ginning  of  the  year,  so  as  to  enable  the  planter  to  finish  his 
"  crop  by  the  latter  end  of  May,  except  as  to  the  canes  that 
"  are  left  to  furnish  cuttings  or  tops  for  planting."  I  am 
not  aware  that  any  writer  or  witness  except  Mr.  De  la  Beche, 
has  reduced  the  number  of  crop-months  to  "about  four;" 
while  it  is  stated  by  other  authorities,  often  to  extend  to  six. 
Mr.  Gilbert  Franklin  for  instance,  stated  in  his  evidence  before 
the  committee  of  the  House  of  Commons,  that  "  the  crop  of 
**  sugar  commonly  begins  from  the  1st  of  January  or  February, 
**  and  continues  till  the  beginning  of  June  or  July,  according 
"  as  the  estate  is  slaved  ;"  and  Mr.  Campbell  says,  that  **  If 
"  the  estate  is  weakly  handed,  the  crop  must  be  begun  as 
"  early  as  the  beginning  of  January,  and  continued  till  June 
"  or  July." 

*'  Crop-time,"  (says  Mr.  M 'Queen) "  extends  from  December 
*'  till  May ;"  and  even  Mr.  Barclay  expressly  admits,  that 
"  the  crop- season  lasts  about  five  months,"  (p.  417.)  He 
adds,  indeed,  what  no  other  writer  has  alleged,  that  there 
are  necessary  intermissions  of  a  week  to  put  in  the  cane  plants. 
If  so,  it  shews  that  there  are  no  hands  to  spare  from  the 
spells  while  the  boiling  process  goes  on. 

It  will  not,  I  presume,  be  thought,  on  comparison  of  these 
authorities,  too  large  an  estimate,  if  I  take  the  crop-months 
as  comprising  in  a  general  view,  about  five  of  the  twelve; 
and  if  we  spread  the  additional  labour  of  three  hours 
and  forty  minutes  during  that  season  over  the  whole  year, 
the  result  will  be  an  addition  of  more  than  an  hour  and  a  half, 
on  a  yearly  average,  to  the  fifteen  hours  that  we  have  taken 
as  the  time  of  labour,  or  active  exertion,  out  of  the  crop-sea- 
son ;  making  altogether  about  sixteen  hours  and  a  half  in 
every  twenty-four  hours  throughout  the  year ;  with  the  excep- 
tions only,  such  as  they  are,  of  the  Sundays,  and  two  or  three 
annual  holidays. 

150  Of  the  Excess  of  forced  Labour 

To  make  the  account  clearer,  I  will  recapitulate  the  diffe- 
rent items,  and  place  them  in  one  connected  view. 

Hours.     Minutes. 

Time  of  labour  out  of  crop,  as  limited  by  the 
Colonial  Acts,  and  admitted  to  be  the 
usage,  from  five  in  the  morning  till  seven 
at  night,  deducting  the  two  hours  and  a 
half  for  breakfast  and  dinner 11        30 

Half  of  the  two  hours'  interval  at  noon,  employ- 
ed in  work  on  the  negro  gardens  or  provision 
grounds,  &c.,  including  walks  to  and  from 
the  field 1 

Mornings  and  evenings  active  employments 
before  and  after  field-work,  for  the  master 
or  themselves,  including  going  to  and  re- 
turning from  the  huts,  estimated  together 
at  three  hours,  but  taken  at 2       30 

Annual   average  of  the  extra   nocturnal  work 

in  crop-time    1       40 

16       40 

On  the  strictest  review  of  this  account,  I  can  find  no  error 
in  it  on  the  aggravatory,  but  several  on  the  extenuatory  side. 
I  have  supposed  one-half  of  the  noontide  respite  to  be  time 
of  absolute  rest,  and  without  even  distinguishing  the  grass- 
picking  colonies,  where  it  affords  no  rest  at  all.  In  the  crop- 
time,  I  have  allowed  nothing  for  the  slave's  own  occupations 
after  his  dismission  from  the  works  at  midnight,  or  six  in  the 
morning ;  and  where  the  spells  are  but  two,  certainly  the 
more  ordinary  cases,  my  computation  of  night-work  is  short 
by  one-third  of  the  truth.  Indeed,  it  is  much  more  deficient 
if  Mr.  Barclay,  and  the  evidence  on  oath  cited  by  him  (p.  415.), 
are  correct;  for  they  state,  that  even  with  four  spells,  each 
negro  has  18  hours  of  night-work  every  week;  and  I  have 
taken  it  as  amounting,  with  three  spells,  only  to  22  hours. 

I  doubt  not  the  fact  to  be,  that  the  slaves  have  not  in 
general  so  much  rest  in  crop-time  as  five  hours  in  the  twenty- 

That  the  work  is  at  least  eighteen  hours  during  that  season, 

///  point  of  Time.  151 

I  am  now  enabled  to  shew,  from  recent  and  express  authority; 
and  such  as  may  suffice,  perhaps,  to  satisfy  those  who  will  not 
take  the  trouble  of  following  me  closely  through  the  details 
here  given  and  demonstrated,  for  clearer  views  of  the  sub- 

Should  any  man,  after  all  the  evidence  I  have  already 
offered,  doubt  whether  the  enormous  amount  of  eighteen 
hours'  of  diurnal  labour,  between  the  tropics,  is  not  more  than 
avarice  armed  with  irresistible  power  can  impose,  or  patient 
human  nature,  during  five  successive  months  sustain,  let 
him  enquire  for  the  Parliamentary  papers  before  referred  to, 
entitled  "  Trinidad  Negroes,"  and  printed  by  order  of  the 
House  of  Commons  of  the  14th  of  June,  1827,  and  he  will 
find  in  it,  (p.  33.),  the  following  passage.  "  I  feel  called 
"  on  to  explain  more  fully  than  I  did,  the  opinion  I  gave  as 
"  to  whether  sugar-estates  could  be  carried  on  entirely  by 
"  free  labour;  I  do  not  think  they  could,  in  the  manner  the 
"  work  is  carried  on  at  present,  making  large  quantities  of  sugar 
"  in  a  given  time;  in  many  instances  working  eighteen  hours 
"  OUT  OF  TWENTY-FOUR  ;  wMcJi  constaut  labouT  the  free  settlev 
"  will  not  submit  to,  &;c.  I  have  no  doubt  sugar-estates,  carry- 
"  ing  on  labour  from  sun-rise  to  sun-set,  might  be  worked  by 
"  them;'&;c* 

Whose  is  this  statement?  not  that  of  an  anti-slavery  writer, 
but  of  Mr.  Mitchell  of  Trinidad,  superintendent  of  the  freene- 

*  See  the  Parliamentary  paper  referred  tp,  p.  33. 

Nothing  to  this  effect  was  said  by  him  in  his  original  examination ;  unless, 
which  seems  more  probable,  it  was  suppressed  by  the  honourable  Board,  as 
not  fit  for  its  purpose.  But  the  superintendant,  it  appears,  had  been  ex- 
amined at  a  former  period,  about  eighteen  months  before,  if  the  dates  are 
correctly  printed;  and  having  then  given  an  opinion,  with  which  we  are  not 
furnished,  as  to  the  impracticability  of  substituting  free  labour  for  slavery, 
he  thouglit  it  incumbent  on  him,  it  appears,  to  send,  the  next  day,  a  letter  to 
the  governor,  with  this  explanation  of  his  evidence,  as  stated  in  the  minutes; 
and  the  governor  now  laid  it  before  the  Board.  Upon  this  Mr.  Mitchell 
was  called  in  again,  and  subjected  to  a  cross-examination  by  his  brother 
planters,  the  course  of  which  marks  the  anxious  desire  of  the  honourable 
members  to  obtain  some  qualification  of  the  awkward  explanatory  state- 
ment ;  and  marks  also,  the  natural  effect  on  the  nerves  of  a  witness,  placed 
in  a  perilous  dilemma  between  regard  to  truth  and  consistency  on  the  one 
hand,  and  fear  of  being  treated  as  an  enemy  to  the  common  cause  on  the 

152  Of  the  Excess  of  forced  Labour 

groes  called  American  refugees,  but  a  long-resident  proprietor  of 
a  suo-ar-estate  worked  by  his  own  slaves  in  that  island  ;  and  be, 
it  well  observed,  a  witness  called  and  examined  on  the  spot,  by 
a  committee  of  the  Insular  Council,  for  the  purpose  of  excus- 
ing slavery,  and  opposing  the  humane  orders  of  His  Majesty's 

other.     With  all  his  too  natural  dread  of  offence,  the  witness  could  only  be 
brought  to  qualify  the  terms  of  his  letter  as  follows  : — 

Q.  "  You  stated  in  the  same  letter  to  the  governor,  that  slaves  on  sugar- 
"  estates  worked,  in  many  instances,  eighteen  hours  out  of  the  twenty-four. 
"  Do  you  mean  in  these  cases,  to  allude  to  the  whole  gang  on  the  estate, 
"  and  to  every  day  throughout  the  year  ?" 

A.  "  I  mean  only  in  time  of  crop,  and  the  people  employed  at  the  mill 
"  and  works." 

Q.  "  Is  it  a  general  custom  in  your  quarter,  on  estates,  to  make  the  mill 
"  and  boiling-house  gang  work  in  crop-time,  eighteen  hours  out  of  the 
"  twenty-four  ?" 

A.  "  I  do  not  think  it  is  the  custom  at  present,  but  I  think  it  was  three 
"  years  ago." 

Q.  "  Do  you  know  from  your  own  observation,  that  this  was  the 
"  case." 

A.  "  I  have  been  told  so." 

If  the  reader  will  compare  this,  with  the  extract  I  have  given  of  his  letter 
to  the  governor,  he  will  agree  with  me,  that  the  honourable  examiners  had 
better  have  left  the  matter  where  it  stood. 

It  was  a  miserable  expedient  to  soften  down  into  matter  of  opinion  and 
information,  the  positive  assertion  in  his  explanatory  letter;  and  into  by-gone 
oppression,  what  had  been  expressly  stated  as  \\\e  present  practice.  Had  it 
been  otherwise,  indeed,  the  explanation  would  have  been  useless  and  irrele- 
vant. But  when  it  is  added,  that  the  witness  had  been  twenty-two  years  a 
planter,  that  he  was  and  had  been  resident  eighteen  years  on  his  estate,  in 
the  quarter  of  North  Naparima,  of  which  he  was  also  the  commandant  and 
sole  magistrate,  (see  p.  2  and  35),  and  pre-eminently  bound,  besides,  as 
superintendant  of  free  negroes,  to  be  accurate  on  such  a  subject,  this  sub- 
terfuge to  get  rid  of  a  palpable  and  notorious  truth,  well  known  not  only 
to  the  witness,  but  to  every  gentleman  who  heard  him,  must  astonish  every 
man  not  so  well  acquainted  as  I  am  with  the  ordinary  style  of  West  India 
evidence  on  this  subject. 

Had  there  been  the  slightest  doubt  on  the  point,  or  any  colour  for  sug- 
gesting a  departure  from  the  general  practice  in  Trinidad,  the  witness  would 
not  have  been  let  off  so  easily ;  and  many  planters  would  have  eagerly  come 
forward  to  contradict  the  statement  in  his  letter,  or  to  prove  that  the  oppres- 
sion had  ceased  to  be  in  use  ;  but  though  many  other  planters  were  ex- 
amined, no  other  statement  by,  or  question  on  the  subject  to,  any  other 
witness,  is  to  be  found  throughout  those  long  examinations. 

in  point  of  Time.  1 53 

Government.  The  general  tenor  of  his  evidence  will  shew  to 
those  who  read  it,  that  the  planters  who  called  him  were 
not  mistaken  in  supposing  him  a  good  friend  to  their  cause ; 
which  was  indeed  also  his  own. 

If  there  were  nothing  worse  in  slavery  than  this  cruel  and 
murderous  oppression  of  forcing  men  and  women  to  work 
hard  in  a  hot  climate  eighteen  hours  in  the  twenty-four, 
surely  this  would  be  enough  for  its  condemnation  by  every 
mind  in  which  West  Indian  prejudices  have  not  obtunded 
the  natural  feelings  of  humanity  and  justice  towards  their 
degraded  objects. 

I  might  enhance  this  general  account  of  slave  labour,  by 
adding  to  its  diurnal  excess  the  amount  of  the  time  sub- 
ducted by  laborious  occupations  from  the  rest  of  the  Sabbath. 
But  this  is  one  of  the  topics  which  I  have  declined  to  enter 
upon,  it  having  as  a  substantive  article  of  oppression,  and  as  pre- 
cluding the  religious  instruction  of  the  slaves,  been  sufficiently 
discussed  by  other  writers  on  the  anti-slavery  side.  My 
readers,  however,  will  not  forget  that  the  poor  beings  so  merci- 
fully overworked  during  six  days  in  the  week,  have  but  a  very 
partial  rest  at  best  on  the  seventh.  But  without  taking  this 
aggravation  into  the  account,  I  have  sufficiently  demonstrated, 
as  I  undertook  in  the  present  chapter  to  do,  that  slave  labour 
is  cruelly  excessive  in  point  of  time. 

The  general  lesult  of  data  wholly  established  by  the 
evidence  of  my  opponents,  and  of  the  calculations  from  them 
here  submitted,  is  this,  that  the  poor  slaves  have  eighteen 
hours  at  the  least,  of  coerced  labour  in  every  twenty-four, 
during  the  crop-season,  and  during  the  whole  year  on  an 
average,  above  sixteen  hours  and  a  half.  Unless  the  fairness 
can  be  denied  of  adding  to  the  labour  in  gang  under  the 
drivers,  solitary  work,  or  laborious  employments,  directly  or 
indirectly  for  the  master's  profit,  or  necessary  for  the  supply 
of  the  slave's  own  personal  wants,  more  than  the  estimate 
that  I  undertook  to  sustain,  has  been  proved.  Mr.  Ramsay, 
forty  years  ago,  averaged  the  labour  at  sixteen  hours ;  and  I 
have  shewn  its  true  present  amount,  after  every  fairly  de- 
mandable  allowance,  to  be  above  sixteen  hours  and  a  half. 

My  readers  I  trust  will  not  censure  the  large  demand  1 
have  made  on  their  patience,  in  this  very  important  division 

154  Of  the  Excess  uf  forced  Labour 

of  my  subject.  To  establish  conclusively  the  true  ordinary 
amount  of  forced  labour  in  point  of  time,  was  to  fix  a  datum 
of  pre-eminent  value,  with  every  man,  who  wishes  to  form 
a  right  judgment,  either  on  the  actual  state  of  slavery,  or  on 
the  credit  that  fairly  belongs  to  colonial  witnesses  and  writers 
as  to  the  facts  they  allege  in  its  defence.  We  have  in  it,  a 
criterion  simple,  homogeneous,  and  intelligible  alike  in  every 
region  of  the  globe.  Nor  are  we  embarrassed  in  its  apphca- 
tion,  by  diversities  real  or  alleged  between  places,  persons,  or 
times  ;  for,  however  the  treatment  of  the  slaves  may  vary  in 
different  sugar  colonies,  and  under  masters  of  different  de- 
scriptions, their  time  of  daily  labour,  in  all  those  colonies,  or 
all  from  which  we  have  any  public  evidence  on  the  sub- 
ject, will  be  found,  when  that  evidence  is  fairly  scrutinized 
to  be  very  nearly,  if  not  exactly  the  same.  Nor  is  it  al- 
leged that  in  this  respect,  the  practice  of  the  more  hu- 
mane, differs  very  materially  from  that  of  the  more  rigorous 
planter.  I  recollect  at  least  no  such  distinctions  more 
important,  than  the  giving  or  not  giving  a  day,  or  half  a 
day  weekly,  out  of  the  crop-season  to  the  slaves,  in  aid  of  the 
sabbath,  for  the  culture  of  their  own  provision  grounds. 

The  result  of  these  investigations  is  much  enhanced  in  its 
importance,  because  it  shews  the  utter  futility  of  all  the 
charges  of  indolence  against  the  much  calumniated  African 
race,  that  are  founded  on  a  comparison  between  the  effects  of 
their  industry  when  free,  and  the  products  of  their  forced 
labour  when  slaves. 

This  is  now  the  favorite  theme  of  the  planters  and  their 
controversial  advocates.  It  is  on  this  they  mainly  rely  for 
averting  all  measures  tending  either  to  general  or  progressive 
enfranchisement.  On  this  ground,  they  had  the  confidence 
to  oppose  at  the  Privy  Council  table,  even  the  giving  a  right 
of  self-redemption,  to  such  slaves  as  might  be  industrious  and 
fortunate  enough,  to  be  able  to  tender  their  full  value  as  pro- 
perty, for  the  purchase  of  their  freedom. 

Ye  be  idle,  ye  be  idle,  was  the  answer  of  Pharaoh  to  the 
oppressed  Israelites,  when  complaining  of  their  heavy  drudgery. 
**  They  are  idle,  they  are  idle,"  is  now  the  cry  of  far  worse  than 
Egyptian  masters  ;  and  for  the  same  odious  purpose,  the  ex- 
acting by  means  of  an  unjust  slavery,  a  merciless  excess  of 

in  point  of  Time.  155 

work.  The  special  requisitions  of  God  in  the  one  case  were 
resisted ;  his  sacred  laws  in  the  other,  are  set  at  nought,  by 
the  same  false  and  insulting  pretence.  The  Egyptian  crite- 
rion of  idleness,  was  the  not  gathering  straw  to  make  bricks. 
The  West  Indian,  is  far  more  rigorous ;  it  is  unwillingness  to 
work  hard  by  day  and  by  night,  during  sixteen  or  eighteen 
hours  in  the  twenty-four. 

If  idleness  may  be  justly  defined  to  be  the  want  of  due  ex- 
ertion, we  must  fix  the  right  standard  of  the  latter,  before  we 
can  fairly  predicate  idleness  of  exertions  less  in  degree.  But 
the  colonists  take  a  more  convenient  course.  They  are  too 
prudent  to  tell  us  expressly  how  many  hours  daily  they  think 
a  free  man  ought  to  work  between  the  tropics  ;  because  if  less 
than  the  labour  they  inforce  on  their  slaves,  their  estimate  would 
be  self-condemnation ;  and  if  equal  to  it,  might  startle  even  the 
least  considerate  and  humane ;  and  suggest  views  of  their  prac- 
tical standard,  very  different  from  those  they  desire  to  impress. 
They  deem  it  better,  therefore,  to  infer  a  want,  of  industry 
from  the  productive  effects  of  free  labour,  than  from  its  posi- 
tive or  comparative  amount.  The  Haytians  are  idle,  be- 
cause they  do  not  raise  so  much  agricultural  produce,  as  an 
equal  number  of  slaves ;  and  cannot  at  all  compete  in  sugar 
planting  for  exportation,  with  the  slave  masters  of  Jamaica,  or 
Cuba.  The  free  negroes  in  our  own  colonies,  are  idle  be- 
cause they  do  not  improve  their  condition  by  labouring 
in  the  cane-pieces  in  competition  with  the  forced  labour  of 
slaves.  Such  reasoning  obviously  amounts  to  a  tacit  as- 
sumption of  the  whole  matter  in  dispute.  It  assumes,  thai 
the  exaction  of  labour  from  the  slaves,  is  not  excessive ;  and 
that  the  returns  given  for  it  in  subsistence,  are  liberal  or 
equitable  enough  to  equal  the  reasonable  expectations,  or  at 
least  the  potential  earnings  in  other  lines  of  industry,  of 
freemen  working  in  the  same  degree  for  hire.  As  the  case  really 
stands,  it  would  be  just  as  rational  to  chargeone  of  our  own  pea- 
sants with  idleness,  because  his  work  does  not  equal  in  its  effects 
that  of  a  horse,  or  produce  to  him  in  wages  what  his  employer 
earns  by  the  use  of  his  quadruped  competitor. 

There  is  one  very  elaborate  defence  of  slavery,  in  which 
reasoning  less  sophistical  on  this  subject,  might  naturally  be 
expected.     I  mean  the  reports  of  Major  Moody,  which  I  have 

156  Of' the  Excess  of  forced  Labour 

before  cited  and  described.*  Their  main  object  is  to  defend 
the  colonial  system,  on  the  principle  that  slavery  is  necessary 
for  the  culture  of  the  sugar  colonies  ;  because  free  negroes 
cannot  be  induced  to  submit  to  that  degree  of  labour,  or  in 
his  own  favourite  phrase,  that  **  stead)/  industry  to  which  the 
slaves  are  compelled. 

To  maintain  and  illustrate  this  doctrine,  the  Major  brings 
forward  numberless  facts,  alleged  to  be  derived  from  his  own 
observation  and  experience,  not  only  in  the  West  Indies,  but 
other  tropical  regions,  all  designed  to  shew  the  want  of  ade- 
quate exertion,  or  "  steady  industry,"  in  blacks  or  coloured 
persons  of  free  condition ;  and  in  his  anxious  depreciation  of 
their  industry,  the  time  of  their  work  is  a  measure  of  exertion 
to  which  he  very  commonly  resorts.  The  very  first  datum  there- 
fore to  be  fixed  by  him  for  the  purpose  of  his  comparison  with 
slave  labour,  obviously  should  have  been  the  ordinary  time  of 
the  latter ;  but  his  readers  will  be  more  successful  in  their 
researches  than  I  have  been,  if  they  find  that  essential  datum 
expressly  supplied  in  any  part  of  those  folio  volumes. 

There  isan  endless  iteration  in  various  forms  and  details,  both 
of  statements  and  reasonings,  tending  to  shew  the  value  of  one 
of  his  terms  of  comparison  ;  but  that  of  the  other  is  no  where 
that  I  can  find  expressly  given  ;  and  there  are  many  places 
in  which  it  must  apparently  have  cost  the  Major  much  trouble 
to  avoid  committing  himself  by  some  clear,  or  at  least  intelli- 
gible, statement  on  that  subject. 

This  cannot  but  be  thought  exceedingly  strange ;  more  es- 
pecially when  it  is  added,  that  Major  Moody  affects  to  treat 
of  slave  labour  systematically,  and  to  write  with  the  precision 
of  a  philosopher;  in  the  developement  of  what  he  seems  to  re- 
gard as  a  new  science  ;  or  a  new  branch  at  least  of  political 
economy,  discovered  by  himself,  which  he  calls  the  ''philosophy 
of  labour  "  The  defect  will  be  thought  the  more  extraordinary, 
because  he  is  perpetually  taxing  his  antagonists,  the  irapugners 

*  Supra,  note  on  p.  48,  49.  Let  me  here  correct  an  error  in  that  note, 
which  is  already  printed.  The  colony,  I  now  understand,  in  which  the 
Major  was  long  and  extensively  engaged  as  a  planter,  was  not  Demerara, 
but  Berbice. 

in  point  of  Time.  157 

of  negro  slavery,  with  want  of  accuracy  and  precision  in  their 
premises  of  fact,  and  in  their  views  and  reasonings  on  this 
very  same  subject  ;  and  boasting  of  the  great  experience,  and 
close  investigation,  that  have  enabled  him  to  correct  our 
errors.  How  surprising  then  that  by  leaving  the  ordinary 
time  of  slave  labour  undefined,  he  should  have  left  out  one 
of  the  first  elements  of  his  own  calculations  ;  the  very  corner- 
stone of  his  entire  system  ! !  It  is  as  if  Euclid  had  proceeded 
to  compare  right  angles  with  other  angles,  without  first  shew- 
ing what  a  right  angle  is  ;  or  as  if  a  writer  on  the  rural  econo- 
my of  this  country  should  undertake  to  demonstrate  from  his 
own  experience,  the  superior  advantages  of  one  course  of  hus- 
bandry in  comparison  with  another,  and  to  that  end  should 
furnish  us  with  numerous  accounts  and  estimates  as  to  the 
expences  and  returns  of  the  course  he  disapproves ;  leaving 
those  of  the  course  he  recommends,  altogether  unstated.* 

*  The  only  passages  I  can  find  in  Major  Moody's  Reports,  in  which  he 
possibly  may  be  thought  to  have  deviated  from  this  strange  course  of  pro- 
ceeding, are  in  pages  5Q  and  57  of  the  Second  Part  of  his  Report ;  wherein 
he  attempts  to  demonstrate  the  impossibility  of  substituting  free  for  forced 
labour,  on  the  assumptions  that  free  negroes  will  not  work  more  than  is 
necessary  to  obtain  a  mere  subsistence,  and  that  this  can  be  obtained  in  a 
given  colony  by  working  land  on  their  own  account  half  an  hour,  or  at 
most  one  hour  per  day.  How  then  he  argues  are  seven  hours  of  further 
labour  to  be  obtained  by  the  white  capitalist  for  raising  exportable  articles, 
without  coercion?  "  It  appears  to  me,"  he  adds,  "  impossible  to  sup- 
"  pose,  that  any  previous  habits  of  labour,  or  any  degree  of  moral  instruc- 
"  lion,  could  ever  have  the  effect  of  inducing  any  free  negro,  or  Indian,  to 
"  work  eight  hours  in  a  day  for  another  man,  in  return  for  ordinary  wages 
"  in  a  country  where  the  labourer  could  more  easily  obtain  the  same  value 
"  in  substance,  by  working  for  himself  only  half  an  hour,^'  &c.  Throughout 
this  part  of  his  argument,  he  compares  the  assumed  time  of  voluntary  labour 
with  eight  hours  per  diem  only  of  labour  by  constraint. 

Here  then,  the  Major  may  be  supposed  to  have  furnished  by  clear  impli- 
cation in  one  place,  what  ought  to  have  been  found  by  direct  averment,  or 
avowed  assumption  in  a  hundred,  the  important  datum  in  question.  He  may 
be  thought  to  have  committed  himself  like  his  coadjutor  in  the  same  cause, 
Mr.  M'Queen,  as  to  the  ordinary  time  of  the  slave's  daily  labour,  and  even 
gone  much  beyond  that  writer's  bold  misrepresentation,  by  reducing  his 
maximum  of  nine  hours,  out  of  crop,  to  an  average  of  eight  hours  at  all 

But  I  will   not,  without  strict  necessity  impute  to  this  gentleman,  who 

158  Of  the  Excess  of  forced  Labour 

Having  enabled  my  readers  to  supply  this  singular  defect, 
in  the  "  philosophy  of  labour,"  for  themselves,  and  to  understand 
v^rhat  the  planters  mean  by  industry,  I  freely  admit  that  such 
industry  is  not  to  be  found,  nor  any  exertions  that  at  all  ap- 
proximate to  it,  among  negroes,  or  any  other  men  who  are  free. 
If  less  than  this  is  idleness,  the  latter  I  confess  are  idle,  and 
likely  ever  to  remain  so.  1  concur  with  the  superintendent 
of  the  American  refugees,  that  "  free  labourers  will  not  work 
eighteen  hours  out  of  the  twenty-four."*  They  will  not  work 
with  what  the  venerable  Society  for  promoting  Christian 
Knowledge  justly  calls  "the  least  possible  intermission."f  In 
other  words,  they  will  not  work  themselves  to  death. 

Nor  will  the  disparity  ever  be  small  enough  to  allow  of  any 
competition  on  commercial  principles,  between  forced  labour 
and  free.  Strijce  off  eight  hours  per  diem  from  the  five  months 
of  harvest,  and  six  hours  and  a  half  from  the  annual  average  ; 
reduce  the  labour  to  an  average  of  ten  hours  in  the  twenty- 
four,  and  cut  off  all  those  additions  to  it  fraudulently  dis- 
guised in  the  case  of  men  who  receive  neither  wages  nor  food 
from  their  masters,  as  time  of  rest,  or  of  "  work  only  for  them- 
selves ;"  give  truth  in  short  to  all  the  false  pretences  I  have 
refuted  ;  and  it  might  still  well  be  doubted,  whether  free  men 

challenges  repeatedly  implicit  credit  to  his  testimony,  on  the  score  not  only 
of  his  public  duty  as  a  commissioner,  but  on  his  military  honour,  that  he 
meant  to  convey  an  impression  so  grossly  repugnant  to  what  he  well  knew 
to  be  the  real  fact  of  the  case.  He  does  not  affirm,  and  could  not  of  course  mean 
to  insinuate,  that  the  slaves  work  no  more  than  eight  hours  a  day ;  though 
certainly,  those  who  read  the  passage  may  naturally  enough  so  understand 
him ;  especially  as  it  would  have  been  diminishing  the  force  of  his  own 
economical  views  to  reduce  the  slave  labour  to  less  than  its  true  extent. 

He  certainly  might  have  doubled  the  strength  of  his  argument  by  comparing 
the  short  labours  ascribed  by  him  to  the  free  negroes  and  Indians,  not  with 
eight  hours,  but  sixteen  hours  a  day ;  and  preserved  the  precision  of  the 
philosopher  together  with  the  fidelity  of  a  reporter,  by  stating  the  latter 
expressly  as  the  average  labours  of  the  slaves;  but  that  the  planters  would 
have  been  equally  well  satisfied  with  his  official  defence  of  their  cause,  is 
more  than  I  dare  venture  to  affirm. 

*  Supra,  p.  151.  f  Supra,  138. 

in  point  of  Time.  159 

in  equal  numbers,  would  ever  supply  that  long  continuance 
of  human  labour  that  would  yet  remain  for  the  slave. 

I  firmly  believe  they  would  not ;  because  nine  hours  of 
work  per  diem  on  an  average  of  the  year,  is  all  that  is  yielded 
by  agricultural  labourers  in  England  ;  because  this  is  much 
more  than  the  utmost  incentives  to  industry  have  ever  ob- 
tained from  free-tillers  of  the  soil  in  any  tropical  climate  ; 
and  because  I  am  strongly  inclined  to  think  that  the  hardiest 
natives  of  the  torrid  zone  cannot  permanently  sustain  so 
much,  without  such  a  noxious  pressure  on  their  physical 
powers,  as  the  self-conservatory  instincts  of  nature  imperiously 

The  time  of  slave-labour,  then,  when  shewn  in  its  truly 
enormous  extent,  is  a  sufficient  answer  to  those  who  impute 
indolence  to  free  negroes,  because  they  cannot  sustain  a  com- 
petition with  it  in  the  growth  of  sugar  or  other  exportable 
produce.  But  the  defence  will  be  found  much  stronger  when 
it  shall  be  shewn  with  what  extreme  parsimony  the  slaves 
are  maintained.  If  they  work  twice  as  much  as  free-men 
will  or  ought  to  do,  it  is,  be  it  remembered,  without  wages  ; 
and  the  whole  charge  of  their  maintenance  is,  as  I  doubt  not 
clearly  to  prove,  not  equal  to  one-fifth  part  of  the  wages  or  other 
means  of  support  which  a  free-labourer  may  fairly  demand, 
and  by  moderate  industry  in  working  for  his  own  benefit  ob- 
tain. In  the  grand  article  of  human  labour,  therefore,  the 
Haytian  would  have  to  contend  with  the  Jamaica  sugar 
planter,  under  a  disparity  of  cost  as  ten  to  one.  It  is  needless 
to  add  to  such  a  contrast,  his  want  of  a  mother  country  to 
bear  almost  all  the  charges  of  internal  government  in  peace, 
and  defence  in  war,  to  raise  the  price  of  his  produce  in  Europe 
by  monopolies  and  bounties,  and  to  sustain  him  on  every 
emergency,  even  by  the  sacrifice  of  her  own  agriculture,  and 
her  vital  commercial  interests,  for  his  relief. 

The  dearth  of  free-labour  for  raising  tropical  produce  is, 
on  these  views,  so  far  from  furnishing  any  excuse  for  slavery, 
that  it  is,  in  truth,  one  of  the  many  baneful  effects  for  which 
that  institution  has  to  answer.  It  has  reduced  human  labour 
to  so  vile  a  price,  as  to  shut  out  from  agricultural  employment 
in  the  West  Indies  all  but  servile  hands  ;  or  confine  the  free 
at  least  to  such  branches  of  it  as  contribute  little  to  the  ad- 

160         Of  the  Excess  ofjorced  Labour  in  point  of  Time. 

vancement  of  the  societies  they  belong  to,  and  less  to  the 
commerce  of  Europe.  The  same  course,  as  I  shall  shew,  has 
excluded,  in  a  great  measure,  from  the  plantations,  most  per- 
niciously to  their  soil,  the  use  of  working  cattle,  and  those  im- 
plements by  which  human  labour  is  every  where  else  economised , 
and  its  produce  greatly  improved.  Is  it  asked  why  most  of 
our  old  islands  are  exhausted,  and  their  proprietors  involved 
in  almost  universal  ruin  ?  I  answer,  mainly  because  they  are 
cursed  with  slavery ;  and  becajuse  men  who  can  be  forced  to 
work,  eighteen  hours  in  the  twenty-four,  are  in  the  views  of 
a  short-sighted  avarice,  cheaper  than  horses  and  plows. 

But  further  to  explain  these  truths,  and  for  purposes  far 
more  important  to  humanity,  I  must  now  proceed  to  shew 
what  the  nature  of  that  labour  is,  which  has  such  enormous 
duration,  and  the  barbarous  means  by  which  it  is  exacted. 




I  HAVE  already  observed  that  the  intensity  of  muscular  ex- 
ertion, cannot  be  measured,  like  its  duration,  by  any  general 
scale  or  standard.  When  we  wish  to  give  any  clear  ideas  of 
it,  either  positive  or  comparative,  we  are  obliged  to  resort  to 
the  effect  produced.  The  same,  indeed,  is  the  case  in  the 
mensuration  of  mechanical  energies ;  as  when  to  shew  the  ope- 
rative force  of  a  steam  engine,  we  speak  of  a  four-horse  or  a 
ten-horse  power  :  the  known  effect  of  the  one,  serves  to  mea- 
sure and  define  the  force  of  the  other.  So  when  we  say,  that 
a  man  has  carried  so  many  stone  weight,  has  walked  or  run 
so  many  miles  in  a  given  time,  or  has  threshed  out  in  a  day  so 
many  bushels  of  corn,  we  may  form  just  ideas,  comparative 
ones  at  least,  of  the  easiness  or  intensity  of  his  labours,  be- 
cause we  know  how  much  other  men  usually  carry,  or  walk, 
or  thresh  out,  when  they  exert  their  strength  in  the  same 
modes  of  action.  But  when  the  descriptions  of  human  labour 
in  question  are  not  familiar  to  us,  nor  the  effects  produced  by 
them  commensurable  with  any  known  standard,  even  this  re- 
sort is  in  great  measure  precluded. 

It  is  evident,  therefore,  that  in  the  present  division  of  my 
work,  the  same  simple  modes  of  demonstration  that  I  have 
resorted  to  in  the  preceding  sections  cannot  have  place.  I 
cannot  establish  or  refute  general  propositions  as  to  inten- 
sity or  ease,  by  computing  and  comparing  the  effect  of  par- 
ticular admissions  ;  because  neither  the  one  nor  the  other  have 
any  determinate  or  clearly  definable  meaning. 

VOI-.   II.  M 

162  Of  the  forced  Labour  of  Slaves 

Here,  too,  the  restriction  I  have  imposed  on  myself  as  to 
evidence,  is  more  than  ever  disadvantageous  ;  for  when  the 
propositions  in  question  turn  on  matter  of  opinion  or  judg- 
ment, rather  than  mere  fact^  it  cannot  be  expected  that  the 
case  alleged  on  one  side  of  the  controversy,  will  often  find 
any  direct  support  by  testimony  on  the  other.  When  my 
antagonists  state  that  the  labour  of  the  slaves  in  general  is 
lighter  easy,  or  that  a  particular  process  is  so,  they  evidently 
involve  matter  of  judgment  with  the  tangible  facts  of  the 
case  ;  and  yet  I  am  precluded  by  my  gratuitous  pledge  from 
opposing  to  such  assertions  of  those  by  whom  the  labour  is 
imposed,  the  judgment  of  anti-slavery  writers. 

These  considerations  entitle  me  the  more,  in  this  place,  to 
an  attentive  audience,  while  I  endeavour  by  fair,  though  some- 
times oblique,  inferences  from  the  hostile  evidence  I  have  to 
grapple  with,  to  enable  my  readers  in  some  degree  to  judge 
for  themselves. 

Here  let  me,  in  the  first  place,  avail  myself  of  the  obvious 
general  probabilities  of  the  case.  Is  it  likely  that  those  who 
have  carried  the  exaction  of  labour  to  the  utmost  extremes 
in  point  of  time,  have  been  abstemious  as  to  the  degrees  of  im- 
mediate exertion  ?  The  same  irresistible  force  that  compels 
a  slave  to  watch  and  work  eighteen  hours  out  of  the  twenty- 
four  in  crop-time,  and  sixteen  or  more  on  an  average  of 
the  year,  might  compel  him  as  easily  to  exert  himself  during 
the  time  of  work  to  the  full  measure  of  his  strength ;  at  least 
while  the  driver  is  behind  him  :  nor  can  any  motive  of  for- 
bearance be  assigned  in  the  one  case,  that  would  not  apply 
at  least  as  forcibly  in  the  other. 

Is  the  assessor's  motive  self-interest?  That  undeniably  is 
best  consulted  by  obtaining  as  much  labour  as  possible  in  a 
given  time.  I  know  of  no  principle  in  which  the  sugar 
planters  are  more  unanimous  than  that  celerity  in  all  their 
operations,  especially  in  taking  off  the  crop,  is  essential  to 
their  success.  The  great  characteristic  of  bad  management, 
in  their  views,  is  the  want  of  energy  and  despatch  ;  and  the 
standing  excuse  for  it  by  managers,  is  the  inequality  of  the 
gang  or  the  strength,  as  it  is  called,  to  the  quantity  of  cane- 
land  under  culture.  Are  we  to  suppose  than  that  this  defect, 
when  it  occurs,  arises  from  a  humane  desire  to  spare  the  slaves 

in  point  of  Inte.meness.  163 

in  point  of  muscular  exertion  while  they  are  actually  at  work  1 
That  motive  would  rather  dictate  a  reduction  of  the  excessive 
time  of  work,  than  an  abatement  of  its  energy  ;  and  it  is  ma- 
nifest that  ccBteris  paribus  the  one  must  be  inversely  as  the 
other.  The  question  should  be  regarded  as  relating  chiefly,  if 
not  exclusively,  to  such  work  as  is  enforced  by  the  driver's  direct 
coercion ;  and  to  retrench  the  time  so  employed  would  ob- 
viously be  a  much  better,  as  well  as  more  certain,  alleviation, 
than  a  proportionate  diminution  of  briskness  and  energy  in 
the  work  itself,  by  giving  to  the  slaves  an  earlier  dismission, 
and  so  much  more  time  at  their  own  disposal,  either  for  re- 
pose, or  for  those  individual  labours  in  their  provision  grounds, 
in  which  they  are  the  immediate  arbiters  of  their  own  ex- 

My  inference  then  is,  that  the  now-established  long  dura- 
tion of  the  work,  furnishes  a  strong  presumption  of  its  gene- 
ral intensity.  As  the  incontestable  practice  is  to  take  all 
that  nature  can  be  made  to  yield  in  the  one  case,  less  is 
not  likely  to  be  exacted  in  the  other.  The  indiscriminate 
mode  of  the  coercion  may  indeed,  and  I  shall  hereafter  prove 
that  it  does,  reduce  the  exertions,  of  the  more  robust  slaves 
somewhat  below  the  maximum  of  what  their  hardy  natures 
might  for  a  time  at  least  afford  ;  and  the  feebler  part  of  the 
same  gang,  are  pushed  in  an  equal  degree  beyond  what  their 
constitutions  can  lastingly  endure;  but  the  driving  cannot 
with  any  probability  be  supposed  to  be  less  urgent  than  what, 
upon  an  average  estimate,  the  gang  is  thought  able  generally 
to  sustain. 

Here  I  must  open  progressively  the  different  parts  of 
the  case  which  I  propose  to  prove  ;  and  the  statements  in 
this  instance  must  be  my  own  ;  for  I  am  not  aware  that 
any  one  of  my  fellow-labourers  has  treated  this  part  of 
the  case  distinctly,  and  with  due  specifications.  But 
though  I  shall  state  nothing  but  what  I  certainly  know  to 
be  true,  in  respect  at  least  of  the  Island  of  St.  Christopher, 
where  I  long  resided,  I  desire  no  credit  for  any  proposition  as 
mine.  Let  all  that  I  allege  be  regarded  like  the  statements 
borrowed  in  a  former  chapter,  from  Mr.  Ramsay,  as  the  mere 
speech  of  an  advocate  ;   and  go  for  nothing,  except  so  far  as  I 

M   2 

1G4  Of  the  forced  Labour  of  Slaves 

shall  be  able  to  bring  the  facts  home,  by  the  testimony  of  my 
opponents,  to  the  conviction  of  impartial  readers. 

There  are  two  ways  in  which  labour  may  be  too  intense. 
The  muscular  effort  may  be  too  strenuous,  or  the  movements 
too  quick  ;  and,  with  the  exception  of  hoUng  the  land,  it  is  in 
the  latter  way  chiefly  that  the  predial  slaves,  independently  of 
the  oppressive  duration  of  their  labours,  are  over-worked  in 
the  sugar  colonies.* 

"  Holing"  is  the  process  of  preparing  land  for  the  recep- 
tion of  the  cane  plants :  for  which  purpose  it  is  laid  out  in 
rectilinear  trenches  of  considerable  depth,  which  are  divided 
into  equal  sections  of  about  two  feet  square,  and  the  work  is 
wholly  performed  by  the  hoe.  Its  difficulty  consists  chiefly 
in  the  hard  texture  of  the  soil,  trodden  down  in  the  labours  of 
the  preceding  crop,  and  baked  by  the  heat  of  a  tropical  sun 
during  about  nine  months  of  an  intervening  fallow.  The  sur- 
face is  quite  impenetrable  by  the  spade,  and  equals  in  hard- 

*  It  is  but  fair  to  notice,  that  in  this  part  of  my  subject,  I  shall  have  to 
correct  sometimes  not  only  the  misrepresentations  of  opponents,  but  the 
misconceptions  of  some  who  were  sincere  friends  to  the  cause  I  sap- 

It  is,  as  I  before  remarked,  from  domestic  slavery,  that  strangers  visiting 
the  West  Indies,  must  generally  derive  their  notions  of  the  ordinary  state  and 
treatment  of  negroes ;  the  predial  class,  to  which  my  present  investigations  al- 
most exclusively  relate,  being  brought  very  little  under  their  notice.  To  the 
former,  they  may  not  unnaturally  ascribe  languor  and  indolence  ;  because,  it 
being  a  characteristic  of  Creole  families  to  keep  a  superfluous  number  of  do- 
mestic slaves,  they  have  for  the  most  part  very  little  to  do.  The  field  ne- 
groes, also,  may  often  be  seen  working  with  apparent  langour.  It  is  a 
natural  effect  of  their  weariness  after  the  long  continued  labours  of  the  day ; 
and  it  is  in  the  evening  chiefly  that  they  are  likely  to  be  much  under  the 
observations  of  white  persons,  whether  strangers  or  residents,  who  are 
not  called  by  plantation  duties  to  survey  their  labours  in  the  cane  pieces 
during  the  heat  of  the  day. 

But  the  main  source  of  honest  errors  on  this  subject,  has  been  inattention 
to  the  distinction  above  pointed  out.  Casting  the  hoe,  and  carrying  loads, 
are  the  chief  general  forms  of  labour ;  but  the  former,  in  holing,  the  most 
ordinary  process,  cannot  be  rapid,  because  the  exertion  is  great ;  and  the 
loads  being  for  the  most  part  not  very  heavy,  the  quickness  of  movements 
lias  not  excited  the  attention  it  deserves ;  though  I  shall  prove  it  to  be  op- 
pressively great. 

in  point  of  Intenseness.  165 

ncss  those  soils  to  which  our  labourers  apply  the  pick-axe. 
The  hoe,  therefore,  for  effectual  penetration,  must  be  raised 
above  the  workman's  head,  and  brought  down  with  a  vigorous 
stroke ;  and  it  will  be  found  that  almost  every  colonial  witness 
or  writer,  who  ascribes  easiness  to  plantation  labours  in  ge- 
neral, admits  this  large  branch  of  them  to  be  severe. 

One  of  these  writers,  indeed,  when  speaking  of  it,  suggests 
an  ingenious  extenuation  ;  but  in  doing  so,  indirectly  confesses 
that,  to  beholders  at  least,  the  work  of  holing  is  arduous 
enough  to  excite  compassion.  *'  When  negroes  become  mas- 
**  ters  of  their  work,"  he  says,  "  as  much  may  be  done  by 
"  sleight  as  labour;  and  a  constant  habitude  makes  that  fa- 
'*  miliar,  which,  to  a  looker-on,  would  be  considered  as  a  haid- 
*'  ship  under  tohich  both  spirits  and  strength  must  soon  siic- 
"  cumb."*  That  the  planters  deem  the  process  of  holing  to 
be  not  only  in  appearance,  but  in  reality,  severe  labour,  is 
manifest,  even  from  the  apologies  they  offer  for  it ;  such  as 
that  the  stronger  negroes  are  those  which  are  selected  to  form 
what  is  called  the  holing  gang  ;  and  that  they  are  very  com- 
monly sustained  under  that  species  of  labour,  by  spirituous 

"  Holing,"  said  Mr.  Campbell  of  Grenada,  **  is  the  most 
"  severe  work  out  of  crop."t  ''  About  the  middle  of  Augiist," 
said  the  same  witness,  "  many  of  the  strongest  of  the  gang 
"  (commonly  about  forty,  more  or  less,  according  to  their 
"  strength)  go  to  holing  the  land  necessary  for  the  following 
**  crop."]:  **  We  often  give  them  while  holing,"  he  states  in 
another  place,  "  twice  a  day  weak  grog." 

Mr.  Baillie's  account  is  to  the  same  effect.  —  "I  have  al- 
**  ways  considered  the  holing  of  land  as  the  hardest  labour 
"  on  a  plantation  ;  and  that  is  generally  the  priiicipal  jiart 
"  of  the  work  out  of  crop  season."  "  It  is  always  done  by 
"  the  ablest  of  the  gang,  and  the  hohng  of  land  generally 
**  commences  in  the  month  of  August,  and  continues  to  the 
"  beginning  of  January."  "  The  negroes  employed  in  holing 
"  have  generally  a  certain  allowance  of  bread ;  and  very  fre- 
"  quently  spirits,  mixed  with  water."§ 

*  Beckford's  Remarks  upon  the  Situation  of  Negroes  in  Jamaica,  p.  44. 
t  Commons' Report  of  1790,  p.  140.  J  Ibid.  139.  §  Ibid.  188. 

166  Of  the  forced  Labour  of  Slaves 

"  The  stoutest  and  most  able,"  advises  Dr.  Collins,  "  should 
"  work  by  themselves,  without  any  regard  being  had  to  their 
**  sex,  for  though  men  are  supposed  to  possess,  and  generally 
"  do  possess,  more  strength  than  women,  it  is  not  universally 
"  so,"  &c.  "  To  your  ablest  negroes,  therefore,  which  is 
"  called  the  strong  gang,  may  be  assigned  the  rudest  labour 
"  of  the  plantation,  such  as  holing,  stumping  or  hoe-plough' 
"  ing."  "  As  this  part  of  your  gang,"  he  adds,  "  is  loaded 
"  with  a  harder  service,  it  will  be  proper  to  distinguish  them 
"  with  greater  indulgence.  They  must  either  have  more 
"  time  allotted  to  their  own  use,  or  you  must  give  them  some 
"  extraordinary  food ;  some  biscuits,  and  grog,  with  or  without 
"  molasses  daily,  or  rather  twice  a  day."* 

That  such  should  be  the  practice,  and  such  the  medical  advice, 
may  seem  strange  to  European  minds.  That  bread  and  biscuit 
are  more  than  ordinary  sustentation  to  hard-working  slaves, 
though  strictly  true,  is  more  than  I  have  yet  enabled  my  readers 
to  conceive :  and  though  a  draught  of  ale  or  porter,  we  know, 
may  not  only  enliven  and  animate  the  labourer  for  the  moment, 
but  serve  to  maintain  his  strength  by  its  nourishing  qualities ; 
spirituous  liquors  can  obviously  promote  the  former  purpose 
alone ;  and  at>  the  probable  expence  of  permanent  health 
and  vigour.  In  the  West  Indies,  copious  perspiration 
abridges  no  doubt  the  temporary  influence,  and  is  likely  to 
aggravate  the  ill  effects  of  the  subsequent  revulsion.  But 
where  the  efforts  to  be  excited  are  strenuous,  and  very  trying 
to  the  strength  and  spirits,  such  a  short-lived  stimulant  may 
be  useful,  at  least  as  a  substitute  for  that  painful  and  more 
enervating  stimulant  the  cart-whip,  by  the  effects  of  which  the 
vital  current  may  be  sometimes  lessened,  as  well  as  the  spirits 
depressed.  We  might  reasonably  infer,  therefore,  from  the 
means  used  and  recommended,  the  severity  of  the  exertions 
to  be  obtained.  But  I  will  not  further  multiply  authorities 
or  reasonings  on  this  point.  When  planters  admit  any  species 
of  slave  labour  to  be  severe  enough  to  be  fit  only  for  the  more 
robust,  and  to  require  extraordinary  artificial  support,  it  can- 
not be  doubted  tp  be  intense,  in  a  positive,  as  well  as  com- 
parative view. 

*  Practical  Rule^,  &c.  176,  7. 

///  point  of  I/Uensenes.s.  167 

Other  kinds  of  labour  in  the  cane-pieces  are  severe,  though 
in  a  considerably  less  degree  than  holing ;  and  it  is  admitted, 
even  by  Mr.  Dwarris,  that  able  and  cautious  apologist  of  the 
system,  that  in  a  general  view  they  are  more  toilsome  than 
those  of  the  English  peasant.  "  The  field  labour,"  he  says, 
**  is  truly  represented  as  severe ;  hut  so  is  ploughing  and  hedging 
"  and  ditching  in  England,  though,  I  admit,  7iot  quite  in  the 
"  same  degree ;  as  agriculture  here  is  in  a  state  of'  greater  per- 

The  intensity  of  the  labourof  the  slaves,  in  other  cases,  chiefly 
consists  in  the  celerity  of  movements,  with  which  they  are 
compelled  to  perform  it.  In  working  under  the  drivers,  not 
in  line,  as  in  the  holing  process,  but  in  file,  as  in  carrying 
out  dung,  or  bringing  canes  to  the  mill,  their  motions,  to 
speak  in  military  terms,  are  either  in  quick  or  double-quick 

Let  me  instance  the  operation  of  dunging,  as  it  is  called. 
The  usage  is  to  carry  out  the  manure  in  baskets  into  the  cane- 
pieces,  which  are  often  of  very  steep  ascent,  and  to  throw  an 
equal  portion  of  it  into  each  particular  cane-hole.  Some  of 
the  colonial  witnesses  have  alleged  that  it  is  previously  brought 
from  the  homestall  as  near  to  the  cane-pieces  as  carts  can 
approach.  If  this  were  generally,  and  1  am  sure  it  is  not, 
or  at  least  was  not,  universally  true,  the  relief  would  be 
but  partial  on  many  or  most  estates  in  the  islands,  that  I 
am  best  acquainted  with  ;  for  many  of  their  more  distant 
cane-pieces  are  too  highly  and  abruptly  elevated  to  be  easily 
accessible  by  wheel-carriages.  But  to  let  this  pass,  it  is  at 
least  admitted  that  the  slaves  have  much  of  this  labour  to 
perform,  and  that  the  dung-baskets  are  universally  carried 
on  their  heads.  Many  planters  also  confess  it  to  be  a  species 
of  labour  comparatively,  at  least,  severe. 

'*  The  manure  used  in  the  West  Indies,"  said  Mr.  Tobin, 
"  is  not  spread  on  the  ground  as  it  is  in  England,  but  is 
*'  carried  and  placed  carefully  round  each  plant  separately,  so 
"  that  wheelbarrows  or  carts  could  not  be  used  for  that  pur- 
"  pose  after  the  canes  are  come  up  ;  but  the  manure  is  gene- 

West  India  Question,  p.  17. 

168  Of'  the  forced  Labour  of  Slaves 

"  rally  carried  in  carts,  and  made  into  heaps  at  proper  dis- 
"  tances  on  the  land  before  it  is  holed,  in  order  to  save  as  much 
"  labour  as  possible  to  the  negroes,"* 

Question  to  Mr.  Willock  of  Anligua,  —  "  What  part  of  the 
"  cultivation  of  an  estate  do  you  conceive  to  be  most  laborious 
"  to  a  negro  ?" 

Answer. — "  Throwing  out  dung  in  baskets." 

Q.  **  Describe  the  basket,  the  weight  and  the  manner  in 
"  which  it  is  carried." 

A.  "  To  the  best  of  my  recollection,  the  basket  with  the 
"  dung  does  not  weigh  above  twenty-five  pounds." 

Q.  "  When  they  are  carrying  this  dung,  do  they  do  it  with 
"  ease  to  themselves?" 

A.  "  They  always  work  very  cheerfully  on  those  occasions, 
*'for  I  generally  give  them  grog"f 

The  reader  will  perhaps  wonder  that  carrying  a  weight  of 
twenty-five  pounds,  should  be  thought  to  require  that  the 
bearer  should  be  sustained  or  exhilarated,  as  in  the  holing 
process,  by  spirituous  liquors  ;  but  my  next  quotation,  which 
pre-eminently  deserves  his  attention,  will  probably  lessen  his 

Sir  Ashton  Warner  Byam,  a  gentleman  of  deservedly  high 
estimation  in  the  colonial  circles,  was  called  as  a  witness  by 
the  West  India  petitioners  ;  and  gave  his  testimony  zealously 
in  their  favour,  as  the  readers  of  my  former  volume  may  re- 
member.;!: He  was  a  man  of  distinguished  talents  as  a  law- 
yer, who  had  been  Attorney  General  of  the  Leeward  Islands, 
and  he  was  a  proprietor  and  practical  sugar  planter  in  Grenada, 
where  he  held,  I  think,  the  same  professional  office.  A  more 
intelligent  or  respectable  witness  on  both  branches  of  the  case, 
the  practice,  as  well  as  the  law  of  slavery,  could  not  be  found 
or  desired  by  those  on  whose  behalf  he  was  called. 

Sir  Ashton  was  examined  particularly  by  the  Committee,  as 
to  the  practice  of  carrying  out  dung;  and  the  following  were 
the  questions  and  answers  as  they  appear  in  the  printed 

*  Common's  Report  of  1790,  p.  267.  f  Ibid.  348. 

J  See  Vol.  I.  p.  1-16. 

in  point  of  Intenseness.  169 

Q.  "Do  you  not  apprehend  that  the  work  of  holing  the 
"  land  for  the  canes,  and  of  dunging  the  holes,  is  a  labour 
"  which  would  be  generally  reckoned  severe?" 

A.  "  It  is  certainly  the  most  laborious  employment  in  the 
**  cultivation  of  the  land ;  and  if  it  was  constantly  continued 
"  through  the  year,  I  should  think  it  harder  than  I  should 
"  wish  to  put  negroes  to." 

Q.  "  Are  you  sufficiently  acquainted  with  the  detail  of  the 
"  plantation  labour,  to  ascertain  the  weight  of  those  baskets 
"  of  dung  which  the  negroes  carry  on  those  occasions?" 

A.  "  The  weight  varies  probably  on  different  plantations, 
"  and  must  vary  according  to  the  state  of  the  dung  used, 
"  supposing  the  same  baskets  filled.  I  cannot  speak  with 
"  any  certainty  as  to  the  number  of  pounds ;  but  the  weight 
"  is  so  little  inconvenient  to  the  slaves,  who  carry  that  and 
"  all  other  burthens  on  the  head,  that  it  is  a  pretty  general 
"  practice,  as  far  as  my  observation  has  gone,  for  the  slaves  to 
"  run,  or  go  in  a  quick  pace,  when  they  are  carrying  the  dung." 

Q.  "  Do  you  then  mean  to  say,  that  the  pace  of  slaves  on 
"  these  occasions  is  regulated  by  their  own  discretion,  and 
"  not  by  that  of  the  overseers  or  drivers  ?" 

A.  *'  I  do  not  mean  to  say,  that  the  slaves  if  left  to  themselves 
"  would  constantly  use  that  pace ;  but  conceive  that  the  practice 
"  would  not  prevail  among  the  drivers,  if  it  was  found  severe  or 
"  unreasonable." 

Q.  "  Do  you  apprehend  that  that  species  of  labour  is  what 
"  the  negroes  perform  with  as  much  willingness  as  their  other 
"  common  employments  ?" 

A.  "  I  never  heard  them  complain  of  it ;  though  I  have  no 
"  doubt  if  they  were  asked  they  would  prefer  weeding  of  canes 
"  or  any  lighter  work."* 

To  the  discerning  reader,  the  style  as  well  as  the  sub- 
stance of  this  testimony  will  suggest  very  useful  reflec- 
tions ;  and  teach  him  what  glosses  he  is  to  expect  even 
from  very  respectable  men,  when  speaking  or  writing  under 
the  strong  influence  of  prejudice,  of  self-interest,  and  of  rcr 
gard  to  their  own  credit  as  planters,  in  the  accounts  they 
give  of  this  system.     Had   it  not  been  for  the  cross  question 

*  Commons'  Report  of  1790,  p.  123-4. 

1 70  Of  the  forced  Labour  of  Slaves 

as  to  the  drivers'  coercion,  put  by  an  abolitionist  member  of 
the  Committee,  the  very  circumstance  that  constitutes  the  in- 
tenseness  of  the  work,  would  have  seemed  fair  evidence  of  its 
lightness ;  and  when  the  respectable  witness  was  driven  to 
shew  the  fallacy  of  his  own  inference  in  that  respect,  he 
shifted  his  ground  we  see,  and  resorted  to  one  not  less  falla- 
cious ;  assuming  that  the  drivers  could  and  would  moderate 
the  pace  as  reason  and  lenity  required. 

As  to  the  general  moderation  of  the  driver's  exactions  and 
discipline,  the  reader  has  already  seen  much,  and  shall  see 
more  hereafter  ;  but  that  a  practice  which  Sir  Ashton  himself 
described  as  universal,  and  a  departure  from  which  must 
obviously  throw  back  the  necessary  business  of  the  plant- 
ation, depends  on  the  discretion  of  those  executive  agents, 
was  a  suggestion  that  I  need  not  perhaps  stop  to  refute.  The 
drivers  are  bad  enough,  as  many  of  their  employers  have  often 
admitted,  and  still  admit ;  but  however  they  may  abuse  the 
discretionary  powers  they  possess  over  individuals,  the  quan- 
tity of  work  to  be  performed  by  the  whole  gang  in  a  given 
time,  is  not  and  cannot  be  in  their  arbitrement ;  but  in  that 
only  of  the  proprietor  or  his  manager,  who  calculates  of  course 
on  the  degree  of  despatch  that  custom  has  established.  The 
driver,  at  his  own  peril,  must  see  that  the  cane-piece  is  manured 
within  the  time  allowed  for  it ;  and  if  the  ordinary  rapid  pace 
of  the  dung-carriers  is  necessary  for  that  purpose,  to  this  he 
must  obviously  adhere,  whether  it  is  severe  on  the  slaves  or 

As  to  the  slaves  not  being  heard  to  complain,  the  ar- 
gument could  weigh  with  European  ignorance  alone.  To 
complain,  even  of  extraordinary  modes  of  oppression,  and 
which  the  owner  may  be  supposed  not  to  have  authorized,  is 
a  perilous  experiment ;  but  to  remonstrate  against  what  cus- 
tom has  established  as  the  ordinary  duties  of  the  gang,  would 
be  regarded  as  mutiny,  and  punished  not  only  by  tlie  cart- 
whip,  but  perhaps  even  by  the  musket  or  the  gibbet.  My 
opponents  nevertheless  often  resort  to  such  pleas,  though  they 
are  just  as  reasonable  as  it  would  be  in  a  violator  who  had 
gagged  his  victim,  to  infer  her  willingness,  from  her  not  calling 
out  for  assistance.  Sir  Ashton  we  see,  admitted  that  the 
slaves  would  probably  have  expressed   their  dislike  to  thiw 

in  point  of'  Li  tenseness.  171 

labour  if  they  had  been  enabled  by  a  question  safely  to  do  so ; 
and  how  indeed  could  he  have  said  otherwise,  after  admitting 
that  the  work  was  severe?  Yet  in  what  could  its  severity 
consist,  if  the  baskets  as  he  represented  were  light,  except  in 
the  quickness  of  the  pace?  —  But  the  question  of  severity 
apart,  we  here  have  an  admission  which  must  be  felt  to 
be  conclusive,  that  in  this  species  of  labour  at  least,  the 
running,  or  going  in  a  quick  pace,  with  the  burthens,  is  the 
general  practice. 

In  respect  of  the  alleged  hghtness  of  the  load,  the  planters 
have  varied  much  from  each  other  in  their  different  accounts  ; 
and  as  it  is  truly  alleged  by  the  last  cited  witness,  that  there 
must,  from  the  nature  of  the  case,  be  great  varieties  in  its  ac- 
tual weight,  I  will  not  attempt  to  form  any  average  estimate. 
The  briskness  of  the  long  continued  motion  would  be  enough, 
even  with  the  small  weight  of  twenty-five  pounds  which  Mr. 
Willock  incredibly  assigned  to  the  dung  and  basket,  to  make  the 
day's  work  extremely  oppressive  ;  and  that  such  was  his  view 
is  evident,  since  he  considered  it  as  the  very  hardest  work  of  a 
plantation.  I  will  only  add  the  following  paragraph  of  advice 
from  Dr.  Collins.  "  As  seldom  as  possible  should  dung  be 
"  removed  when  wet ;  for  in  that  state,  to  its  own  weight  is 
"  superadded  that  of  the  water,  perhaps  equally  great;  and 
"  the  negroes  will  be  vexed  by  the  drippings  from  their 
"  baskets.  —  In  dry  weather,  and  when  the  dung  is  dry,  a 
"  a  negro  will  carry  twice  as  much  of  it,  and  with  more  ease 
*'  to  himself  than  in  other  circumstances.  At  that  time  they 
**  may  be  required  to  fill  their  baskets,  and  they  will  be  less 
"  harassed  by  the  excess  of  weight  than  by  the  fatigue  of 
"  walking."*  In  the  experienced  author's  judgment  then, 
both  are  harassing ;  and  the  latter  is  so,  even  when  the 
weight  is  not  excessive. 

We  have  now  obtained  another  datum  from  which  to 
reason  as  to  the  probable  intensity  of  slave  labour  in  general. 
I  inferred  it  before  from  the  oppressive  exactions  in  point  of 
time ;  and  the  admitted  severity  of  forced  labour  in  some  of 

*  Practical  Rules,  p.  195. 

172  Of  the  forced  Labour  of  Slaves 

its  branches,  strengthens  the  same  inference  as  to  the  rest. 
The  common  end  being  to  obtain  from  a  limited  number  of 
slaves  all  the  exertion  they  are  capable  of  for  the  master's 
profit,  and  it  being  established  that  he  does  not  spare  them 
in  point  of  time,  nor  as  to  one  or  two  kinds  of  ordinary  work 
at  least,  in  point  of  intensity,  it  is  highly  improbable  that  in 
the  other  operations  of  the  estate,  their  utmost  potential  efforts 
in  a  given  time  are  not  fully  exacted.  Least  of  all  is  this 
probable  in  the  labours  of  the  crop  season ;  when  celerity  of 
operation  is  admitted  to  be  of  the  utmost  importance,  both  to 
the  quantity  and  quality  of  the  crop  ;  and  when  the  duration 
of  labour  is  so  great  that  the  attempts  to  justify  it  are  rested 
on  absolute  necessity  alone. 

"  When  the  canes,"  says  Mr.  Beckford,  "  are  in  a  state  of 
"  perfection,  they  should  be  got  off  with  as  much  celerity  as 
*'  possible :  for  expedition,  in  the  time  of  harvest,  is  of  in- 
"  finite  consequence  to  the  quality,  as  well  as  the  quantity 
"  of  the  produce.  Should  any  delay  at  this  particular  time 
"  be  occasioned,  a  drought  might  consequently  supervene, 
*'  which  would  make  at  least  a  daily,  if  not  an  hourly  diminu- 
"  tion  of  crop."*  He  proceeds  to  give  further  reasons  for 
despatch ;  and  shews  afterwards,  by  animated  descriptions  of 
the  different  processes  of  the  grinding  season,  that  the  prin- 
ciple is  well  followed  up  in  practice.  —  "The  labourers  are 
"  now  prepared  for  the  expected  harvest,  &c.  The  shell  is 
"  heard  with  a  shrill  alarm  to  call  them  forth,  as  it  echoes 
*'  among  the  hills,  &c.  The  overseer  is  anxious  to  give  his 
"  orders  to  commence  the  crop ;  he  is  the  first  in  the  field  : 
"  the  driver  follows  with  his  knotted  stick,  and  his  whip 
"  slung  carelessly  across  his  shoulder ;  the  latter  walks  brisklj/ 
"  to  the  place  of  labour ;  the  negroes  follow,  and  he  shews 
"  them  upon  what  part  of  the  piece  to  begin.  The  tops  of  the 
"  canes  are  now  in  a  constant  tremor,  the  yellow  swarths  are 

*  Descriptive  Account  of  the  Island  of  Jamaica,  vol.  ii.  p.  9.  This  is  the 
same  writer,  whose  remarks  on  the  situation  of, the  negroes,  &c.,  I  have 
before  more  than  once  quoted.  He  is  in  both  works  equally  zealous  in  his 
defence  of  slavery,  and  the  slave  trade. 

hi  point  of  Intenseness.  173 

"  strewed  upon  the  ground,  and  vigour  and  dispatch  are  oh- 
"  served  in  every  hody,  and  apparent  in  every  hand."  "  The 
*•  driver,  with  an  authoritative  voice,  cautions  them  to  cut  the 
"  canes  close,  and  not  to  waste  too  much  of  the  top,  &c. ;  he 
"  keeps  them  in  a  regular  string  before  him,  and  takes  care 
"  to  chequer  the  able  with  the  weak,  that  the  labour  may  not 
"  be  too  light  for  the  first,  nor  too  heavy  for  the  last ;  he  in- 
"  timidates  some,  and  encourages  others  ;  and  too  often,  per- 
"  haps,  a  tyrant  in  authority,  imposes  on  the  timid,  and  suffers 
"  the  sturdy  to  escape."* 

Perhaps  the  humane  reader  will  see  nothing  to  admire  in 
all  this  ;  especially  when  he  considers  that  the  poor  men  and 
women  are  thus  kept  to  work  all  the  day  under  the  blaze  of 
a  tropical  sun  ;  not  to  mention  their  precedent  and  subsequent 
night-work  ;  and  that  it  lasts  about  five  months  in  the  year. 
But  Mr.  Beckford  tells  us,  "  that  the  time  of  crop,  particularly 
"  the  commencement  of  it,  exhibits  a  very  lively  and  a  pleasing 
"  scene,  and  every  living  creature  seems  to  be  in  spirits  and 
"  in  expectation. "'f- 

He  adds,  that  "  not  only  the  negroes  are  alert  and  cheerful, 
"  but  that  the  cattle  and  mules,  recovered  from  the  fatigue 
"  of  the  planting  season,  appear  to  be  fresh  and  vigorous  ; 
*'  nor  do  they  seem  to  require  the  encouragement  of  the  voice, 
"  nor  to  dread  the  thunders  of  the  whip ;  for  this  instrument 
"  of  correction,  whether  it  be  in  the  hands  of  the  cartman, 
"  the  mule-boy,  or  the  negro-driver,  is  heard  in  either  case 
"  to  resound  among  the  hills,  and  upon  the  plains,  and  to 
"  awaken  the  echoes  wherever  the  reverberations  of  the  lash 
•'  shall  pass. "J 

*  Ibid.  p.  47-8.  t  Ibid.  50-51. 

X  I  almost  fear  that  this  description  of  West  Indian  pastoral  music 
may  suggest  a  doubt,  whether  I  am  not  quoting,  instead  of  an  op- 
ponent, a  friend  in  disguise.  I,  therefore,  beg  leave  to  exemplify  the  ge- 
neral spirit  of  the  work,  by  the  following  extracts  from  this  planters'  con- 
cluding remarks,  in  defence  of  the  now  reprobated  African  slave  trade. — 
"  As  the  fate  of  the  colonies  seems  to  be  now  involved  in  the  popular  ques- 
"  tion  of  an  abolition  of  the  slave  trade,  I  shall  defer  my  observations  upon 
"  this  subject  until  ihephnnzi/  of  the  moment  shall  be  abated,  and  the  voice 

174  Of  tlie  forced  Labour  of  Slaves 

I  do  not  mean  to  dispute  this  writer's  assertion,  that  the 
slaves,  as  well  as  the  cattle  and  mules,  are  all  exhilarated  and 
invigorated  in  crop-time,  or  at  least  as  he  observably  puts  it 
"  at  the  commencement"  of  the  crop.  I  have  already  noticed 
the  cause  of  that  phenomenon  ;  and  the  extract  from  the  work 
of  Mr.  Bryan  Edwards,  which  I  have  given,  may  suffice  to 
prevent  any  surprise  from  it ;  at  least  as  to  the  biped  la- 

The  effect  of  such  an  addition  to  the  food  of  the  slaves,  as 
cane-juice,  in  countervailing  the  debilitating  tendency  of 
night-watching,  and  an  increase  of  many  hours  in  the  diurnal 
duration  of  labour,  will  prepare  the  reflecting  mind  to  believe 
what  I  shall  demonstrate  hereafter,  the  great  insufficiency  of 
their  ordinary  sustenance  at  other  periods  of  the  year. 
The  same  effect,  from  feeding  on  the  cane-tops,  appears  to  be 
more  transitory  with  the  working  cattle,  from  Mr.  Beckford's 
account ;  for  speaking  of  their  work  in  crop-time,  he  says, 
"  What  this  labour  is,  their  reduced  and  lank  situation,  will, 
"  I  fear,  sufficiently  explain."  What  are  we  to  infer  from 
this  ?  not  certainly  that  the  labour  of  the  slaves  is  not  also 
much  enhanced  ;  for  the  contrary  has  been  shewn  :  the  ob- 
vious and  true  conclusion  is,  that  the  change  of  food  is  greater 
and  more  influential  with  the  negroes,  than  with  their  quad- 
ruped fellow-drudges.  The  latter  out  of  crop,  are  not  left  to 
raise  their  own  provisions,  at  such  scanty  periods  as  remain 
between  forced  labour  and  repose.  They  have  always  had 
enough  to  eat,  though  of  less  nutritious  food  than  the  cane- 

It  may  be  useful  in  this  place,  to  compare  the  system  of 
foreign  sugar  planters  with  our  own.  There  is  a  striking  si- 
milarity, or  rather   identity  between   them   in  almost    every 

"  of  reason  shall  allay  that  tempest  which  a  measure  so  replete  with  danger 
"  cannot  fail  to  excite  ;"  and  in  respect  of  the  slaves'  condition,  "  I  shall,  I 
"  hope,  be  excused  if  I  dwell  a  little  upon  the  seeming  misery  of  their  situ- 
"  ations,  and  then  contrast  the  subjection  of  their  lives  with  the  needi/  inde- 
"  pendencij  of  the  poor  of  England."  "  The  negroes  are  slaves  by  nature." 
"  They  have  no  idea  of  the  charms  of  liberty,"  (Descriptive  Account,  &;c. 
vol.ii.  p.  49.) 

in  point  of  Intenseness.  175 

point.  Indeed,  I  am  aware  of  no  exception  to  the  rule;  nor  is 
it  strange  ;  for  if  the  common  object  is  to  obtain  from  the 
slaves  the  maximum  of  potential  exertion  ;  and  if  this  has  been 
discovered  long  since,  (as  I  maintain  it  has  by  general  experi- 
ment, and  constant  competition  for  the  cheapest  production 
of  the  article,  throughout  the  West  India  islands,)  it  was  na- 
tural, and  almost  inevitable,  that  there  should  soon  be  a  general 
uniformity  of  means  ;  more  especially  when  it  is  considered 
that  by  temporary  conquests  and  cessions,  the  islands  for  the 
most  part  have  frequently  interchanged  their  sovereigns  and 
their  planters. 

I  will,  therefore,  here  introduce  some  citation^  from  a 
French  author  of  great  eminence,  M.Barre  de  St.Venant. 
I  am  well  entitled,  under  my  general  self-imposed  restriction, 
to  cite  him ;  for  he  was  not  only  a  planter,  and  a  champion 
of  colonial  slavery,  and  of  the  slave  trade,  but  one  whose  work 
was  highly  extolled  by  all  the  French  colonists ;  and  contri- 
buted not  a  little  to  lead  on  and  confirm  Buonaparte  in  the 
cruel  and  perfidious  policy  he  adopted  on  the  peace  of  Amiens 
for  the  restitution  of  slavery  at  St.  Domingo,  and  in  the  other 
colonies  of  France. 

I  shall  quote  from  the  original  work  before  me,  published 
at  Paris  in  1802,  of  which  I  believe  we  have  no  published  trans- 
lation ;  but  will  give  my  extracts  in  English.  —  "  The  labour 
"  of  those  who  cut  the  canes  has  some  resemblance  to  that  of 
**  reapers;  but  it  is  much  greater  and  more  animated,  even  upon 
"  the  smallest  sugar  estates,  than  upon  the  most  extensive 
"  farm,  by  the  number  and  the  rapidity  of  the  carts  loaded  with 
"  canes,  which  arrive  at  a  gallop  at  the  mill,  by  those  which 
"  carry  the  fuel  (cane-trash)  for  the  furnace,  and  green-herb 
"  (cane-tops)  for  the  cattle,  by  the  number  of  the  men,  and 
"  that  of  the  labouring  cattle."  After  describing  the  cattle- 
mills,  he  says,  "  six  mules  are  harnessed  to  two  levers,  or 
"  sweeps ;  they  set  off  at  full  gallop,  go  round  and  give  a 
"  horizontal  movement  to  the  central  cylinder,  the  cogs  of 
"  which  turn  the  two  others.  They  then  insert  the  bundles 
"  of  canes  between  the  cylinders ;  they  pass  and  repass  be- 
"  tween  them.  About  fifty  barrels  of  cane-juice  are  expressed 
**  during  the  day,  &c.  —  It  may  be  conceived  from  this,  that 

176  Of  t  he  forced  Labour  of  Slaves 

**  the  swiftness  of  the  mules  must  be  very  great ;  in  fact  they 
"  run  over  eighty  toises  in  a  minute. 

'^  This  movement  is  prodigious  ;  but  that  of  the  boihng- 
"  house,  which  is  contiguous,  is  still  more  surprising.  Under 
"  an  exterior  gallery  are  two  or  four  men,  who  alternately 
"  work  and  rest.  With  the  forks  which  they  take  up  the 
"  fuel  with,  they  feed  the  furnace  tvithout  cessation,"  &c.* 

I  will  add  from  the  same  author  his  account  of  the  night- 
works  and  relays ;  as  it  will  shew  the  uniformity  of  that 
species  of  oppression  in  the  French,  as  well  as  the  English 
colonies.  "  The  grinding  commences  ordinarily  on  Monday, 
"  and  does  not  cease  till  Saturday  at  midnight ;  it  recom- 
"  mences  on  Sunday  at  midnight,  and  so  continues  till  its 
"  termination  ;  and  proceeds  by  day  as  well  as  night,  with- 
"  out  intermission  either  of  the  movements  or  the  fires. — 
"  The  workmen  of  the  mill,  and  those  of  the  boihng-house, 
"  are  fixed  to  them  for  twenty-four  hours  successively.  A 
"  like  number  of  those  who  are  in  the  fields  come  to  relieve 
"  them  at  midnight.  In  so  succeeding  each  other  they  keep 
"  turn  and  turn;  and  when  the  gang  is  not  numerous  it  is 
"  necessary  sometimes  that  they  return  to  the  night-work  one 
"  day  in  three." 

It  would  appear  from  this  that  three  spells  were  the  lowest 
number  in  use  in  the  French  islands ;  whereas  we  have  seen 
that  in  our  own,  there  are  often  no  more  than  two,  and  that 
though,  in  computing  the  time  of  work,  I  have  gratuitously 
supposed  them  to  be  three,  on  an  average,  there  are  probably 
very  few  estates  which  have  so  many. —  "  Some  persons,"  he 
says,  "  have  wished  to  divide  the  station  (at  the  works)  of 
"  twenty- four  hours  into  two  parts,  the  one  from  midnight 
"  to  noon,  the  other  from  noon  to  midnight." — "  The  ne- 
"  groes,"  he  adds,  (in  the  true  spirit  of  our  own  colonial 
apologists,)  "  have  resisted  so  wise  an  arrangement ;  it  is 
"  opposed  to  their  tastes,  their  habits,  and  their  nocturnal 
"  courses  ;  it  obliges  them  to  re-appear  too  often,  and  they  have 

*  Des  Colonies  Modernes  sous  La  Zone  Torride,  Sec,  par  M.  Barrt'  de 
St.  Venant.     Paris,  1802.  p.  369.  371-2. 

in  point  of  Lilenseness,  1 77 

"  preferred  an  arduous  station  of  four  and  twenty  hours,  to  an 
"  easier  one  of  twelve."  **  That,"  he  observes,  "  which  is 
"most  surprising  is,  that  instead  of  resigning  themselves  to 
**  sleep  or  to  rest,  when  the  midnight  has  released  them  from 
"'  their  posts,  one  may  see  them  run  to  a  distance  of  two  or 
"  three  leagues,  to  pass  the  rest  of  the  night  in  dances,  or 
"  orgies,  with  their  mistresses,  and  appear  in  the  field  at  Jive 
"  o'clock  in  the  morning  to  cut  the  canes  ;  the  women  as  well  as 
"  the  men."  * 

These  passages,  when  stripped  of  their  glosses  and  exag- 
gerations, and  reduced  to  their  true  import,  contain  nothing 
incredible  or  surprising.  The  choice  is  between  a  respite  of 
five  hours  at  the  utmost  every  night,  and  unbroken  rest 
during  two  nights  in  three  ;  and  as  during  the  respite  of  five 
hours  the  poor  negroes  would  not  have  time  to  visit  their 
wives,  or  mistresses,  as  the  author  calls  them,  who  often  re- 
side on  other  estates,  and  to  prepare,  also,  their  meals  for  the 
same  or  the  following  day,  they  may  naturally  enough  prefer 
the  latter  alternative. — Those  English  planters  who  have  only 
two  spells,  do  not  and  cannot  give  their  slaves  any  such 
choice  ;  because  as  the  same  negroes  have  to  take  the  spells 
every  second  day,  they  would  have  to  purchase  an  entire 
night's  rest,  by  watching  and  working  for  thirty-six,  or  ra- 
ther thirty-seven  hours,  without  intermission. 

I  say  "  rather  for  thirty-seven,"  because  though  I  have  taken 
six  in  the  morning  as  the  time  of  returning  to  the  day-work, 
it  was  for  the  purpose  of  meeting  the  planters  on  their  own 
admission,  that  each  negro  who  keeps  spell  loses  six  hours  of 
rest  every  night.  In  fact  the  field-work,  in,  as  well  as  out  of 
crop,  commences  at  five,  as  this  French  author  fairly  admits. 
"  In  this  instant,  he  adds,  (i.  e.  at  the  midnight  dismission) 
**  the  negro  is  the  most  free  of  human  beings ;  no  modesty, 
"  no  decency,  no  human  consideration,  no  fear,  no  moral  sen- 
"  timent  restrains  him ;  the  marriage  faith  is  no  curb  for  him  ; 
**  he  is  carried  away  by  an  impetuous  passion ;  the  fatigue  of 
*^  the  day  is  forgotten,  nothing  stops  him,  he  runs  where  his 
"  desires  call  him !     The  negro  must  be  of  all  the  human  spe- 

*  Ibid.  p.  379. 
VOL.    II.  N 

1 78  Of  the  forced  Labour  of  Slaves 

"  cies  the  being  the  strongest,  the  most  robust,  and  vivacious, 
"  for  in  the  hot  cUmates  he  is  capable  of  the  most  extreme  cor- 
"  poreal  efforts,  &,c.  He  will  pass  eight  days  without  sleep, 
"  and  sleep  afterwards  like  a  marmott ;  he  will  pass  from  the 
"  excess  of  labour,  or  of  agitation,  to  that  of  inertness,  or 
"  absolute  repose,  without  his  temperament  or  his  physical 
*'  constitution  being  altered."* 

Thus  did  M.  Barre  de  St.  Venant  attempt  to  palliate  op- 
pression by  exaggerating  the  capacities  of  the  unfortunate 
victims  to  sustain  it ;  but  he  had  no  motive  for  over-stating 
the,  oppression  itself;  and  neither  in  the  duration  of  night- 
work,  nor  its  intensity,  the  points  for  which  I  cite  him,  does 
he  at  all  exceed  the  truth.  In  respect  of  the  former,  he  falls 
short  even  of  what  I  have  proved  to  be  the  practice  in  the 
English  colonies  at  the  present  day  ;  as  the  reader  will  per- 
ceive if  he  turns  back  and  compares  with  these  extracts  my 
citations  in  the  last  chapter  as  to  night-work  in  Jamaica. 

In  respect  of  the  nocturnal  habits  of  the  sleepless  slaves, 
M.  Barre's  misrepresentation,  the  high  colouring  of  a  French 
stile  apart,  is  only  such  as  our  own  planters  continually 
resort  to.  Like  them,  he  ascribes  to  the  slaves  at  large, 
that  which  is  true  only  in  respect  to  a  few  individuals 
among  them,  chiefly  the  drivers  and  headmen,  whose  robust 
constitutions  and  better  sustentation,  (the  consequence  often 
of  their  oppressions  on  their  weaker  brethren,  the  drudges  of 
the  field,)  may  enable  them  sometimes  to  indulge  their  pas- 
sions, during  a  respite  which  the  common  herd  of  drudges 
can  employ  only  in  repose.  If  two  or  three  among  the  former 
are  known  on  a  single  night  in  the  week  to  visit  their  wives 
or  mistresses  on  a  distant  plantation,  it  is  quite  enough  with 
these  colonial  gentlemen,  whether  French  or  English,  to  war- 
rant such  general  statements  as  to  the  negroes  at  large.  Such 
fallacies  are  their  ordinary  means  of  deceiving  their  credulous 
European  readers. 

The  West  Indian  witnesses  before  the  Privy  Council,  and 
the  House  of  Commons,  were  not  interrogated  as  to  the  celerity 

Ibid,  379.   380. 

in  point  of  Intenseness.  179 

of  the  different  operations  in  crop-time;  and  prudently  for- 
bore to  volunteer  any  statements  on  that  subject.  They  all 
admitted  in  general  terms,  that  the  work  at  that  season,  was 
laborious ;  but  left  it  ambiguous  whether  they  meant  as  to  its 
intenseness,  or  only  its  duration.  One  or  two  of  them,  how- 
ever, gave  comparative  statements,  from  which  much  may  be 
inferred  confirmatory  of  the  preceding  accounts. 

Dr.  Athill  of  Antigua,  being  asked.  "  Is  or  is  not  the  cut- 
"  ting  of  canes  one  of  the  most  laborious,  services  of  the  plan- 
"  tation  ?  Answered,  it  is  laborious,  but  I  do  not  think  one 
"  of  the  most  laborious ;  it  is  performed  with  such  alacrity, 
"  and  good  spirits,  that  it  seems  trifling."*  Whether  any 
thing  is  meant  by  the  alacrity  of  work  in  men  with  a  driver 
behind  them,  except  that  they  work  in  quick  time,  the  reader 
may  judge  from  the  instructive  testimony  of  Sir  Ash  ton  War- 
ner Byam,  which  I  have  cited  in  regard  to  the  carriage  of 
dung  ;f  and  as  to  the  good  spirits,  in  crop-time,  see  my  quo- 
tations from  Mr.  Beckford,  and  Mr.  Edwards.;{:  But  the  cutting 
of  canes,  is  here  admitted  to  be  laborious;  and  this  obviously 
must  be,  not  from  the  vigorous  stroke  of  the  hatchet  merely, 
which  the  same  witness  tells  us,  in  the  same  place,  the  wo- 
men are  as  equal  to  as  the  men,  but  from  its  brisk  and  hur- 
ried repetition. 

Another  witness,  Mr.  Campbell  of  Grenada,  says  "  the  cut- 
"  ing  of  the  canes  is  not  hard  labour,"  but  adds,  "  the  feed- 
"  ^^'S  ^f  ^he  mill,  and  the  vjork  done  by  the  firemen,  are  the 
"  most  laborious  operations."^  Here  the  same  remark  ap- 
plies ;  for  there  can  be  no  great  muscular  exertion  in  placing 
the  canes,  which  are  within  reach,  between  the  cylinders,  or 
in  forking  bundles  of  cane-trash  into  the  furnaces  or  copper 
holes,  if  done  in  moderate  time.  It  is  the  celerity  of  the  in- 
cessant operation  that  constitutes  the  fatigue.  The  rapid  re- 
volution of  the  cylinders  as  described  by  M.  Barre  de  St.  Ve- 
nant,  makes  it  necessary  to  supply  fresh  canes  incessantly, 
and  such  is  the  quick  consumption  of  the  dry  cane  trash  and 

*  Commons  Report  of  1790,  p.  :V2d. 

X  Supra,  p.  169.  §  Commons  Report  of  1790,  p.  139. 

N    2 

180  Of  lliejorccd  Labour  oj  Slaves 

wowra,  that  to  feed  the  fires  orco])per  holes  with  them,  is  hke 
feeding  a  furnace  with  paper.  The  driving  of  the  cattle  also, 
and  removal  of  the  magoss,  or  bruised  canes  from  the  cylinders 
of  the  mill,  must  keep  pace  with  the  rapidity  of  its  motions. 
Every  process,  in  short,  of  the  harvest  is  in  general  marked  by 
what  the  planters  choose  to  call  "  alacrity  and  animation.'^ 

If  the  reader  can  still  doubt,  after  fairly  weighing  the  effect 
of  these  colonial  authorities,  whether  the  labour  of  the  slaves 
is  intense  in  point  of  exertion,  as  well  as  time,  I  would  request 
him  again  to  consider  the  probabilities  of  the  case ;  remem- 
bering that  the  extreme  duration  of  the  toil,  increased  largely 
in  crop-time,  is  not  more  within  the  compelling  power  of  the 
master  exercised  by  his  drivers,  than  the  briskness  of  the  la- 
bour itself,  that  his  profit  depends  most  materially  on  dispatch 
and  that  the  number  of  slaves,  is  admitted  to  be  often  inade- 
quate, especially  in  crop  time,  to  the  necessary  operations  of 
the  estate.  The  reducing  them  to  six  or  five  hours'  respite  in 
the  twenty-four,  and  withholding  even  that  portion  of  rest 
from  the  boilers,  &c.,  would  be  still  more  opprobrious  than  it 
is,  if  we  supposed  that  any  possible  increase  in  the  briskness 
of  the  work  might  shorten  its  oppressive  duration. 

I  conclude,  then,  from  the  evidence  which  I  here  adduced, 
which  applies  to  all  the  most  ordinary  species  of  labour,  and 
from  this  general  reasoning  also,  that  the  toil  of  the  slaves  is 
for  the  most  part  intense,  either  from  the  vigour  or  briskness 
of  their  work. 

To  compare  it,  in  this  respect,  demonstratively  with  that 
of  English  peasants,  is  not  easy,  fur  reasons  which  I  have  al- 
Iready  assigned;  but  I  can  truly  assert,  that  except  in  the 
bustle  of  our  reapers  in  the  corn  harvest,  (which  one  of  my 
authorities  admits  is  not  so  great,  as  that  of  the  cane  cutters,) 
I  have  seen  nothing  equal  in  this  country  in  point  of  briskness 
to  what  is  called  the  "  alacrity  and  animation,'"  of  negroes 
in  many  of  their  employments.  I  have  often  seen  our  agri- 
cultural labourers  at  their  different  operations,  and  if  I 
were  even  to  strike  out  of  the  account,  the  important  power 
of  pausing,  to  ease  their  sensations,  or  recruit  their  strength, 
at  their  own  arbitrament,  without  feeling  or  fearing  the  lash 
of  a  driver,  I  should  still  say,  that  their  labours  are  lighter, 

///  point  of  lnlenseness.  181 

because  in  general  much  slower,  than  those  of  the  plantation 

But  were  this  doubtful,  the  vast  difference  of  climate  would 
at  once  decide  the  question.  In  the  one  case,  vigorous  ac- 
tion is  at  most  seasons  compensated  by  genial  warmth ;  in 
the  other,  the  fatigue  is  always  aggravated  by  the  waste  of  a 
copious  perspiration.  This  important  consideration  is  by 
the  apologists  of  the  system  most  unfairly  thrown  out  of  the 
account.  Because  the  negro  can,  and  the  European  cannot 
endure,  a  long  exposure  to  the  broiling  sunbeams,  with  little 
or  no  inconvenience  in  a  state  of  rest,  they  assume  that  the 
same  distinction  is  equally  felt  under  arduous  or  brisk  ex- 

"  An  European,"  says  Mr.  Beckford,  "  who  would  be  al- 
"  most  dissolved,  were  he  to  work  beneath  the  vertical  ardours 
"  of  a  tropic  sun,  does  not  always  consider,  when  he  expresses 
"  his  surprise  that  the  negroes  should  be  obliged  to  labour  in 
"  such  an  intensity  of  heat,  that  the  climate  is  congenial  to 
"  their  natui'al  feelings,  and  that  the  careful  benevolence  of 
•*  Providence  has  thickened  their  skins,  to  enable  them  to 
"  bear,  what  would  otherwise  be  insufferable  :  he  is  too  apt 
"  to  judge  of  then- constitutions  and  feelings  by  his  own."* 

Yes,  a  benevolent  Providence  has  enabled  them,  as  I  have 
before  admitted,  to  bear  an  exposure  to  the  sun ;  because  that 
is  the  lot  of  their  nativity  ;  but  not  to  endure,  without  noxious 
effects,  excess  of  labour,  though  in  their  native  climate,  be- 
cause from  this,  the  same  Providence  has  naturally  exempted 
them  by  the  luxuriant  fertility  of  the  soil.  It  is  not  nature, 
but  the  selfishness,  the  avarice  and  oppression  of  their  fellow- 
men,  which  alone  can  make  it  necessary  ;  and  from  such 
sources  of  evil  it  has  not  pleased  the  Almighty  to  guard  his 
creatures  in  this  probationary  state. 

Do  these  writers  wish  us  to  believe  that  the  negro  is  not, 
like  the  white  man,  subject  to  a  noxious  waste  of  the  fluids 
by  brisk  motion  and  excessive  heat  united  ?  Or  is  it  requir- 
ed that  I  should  prove  this  law  of  our  common  nature  also, 
by  the  testimony  of  their  own  partizans  ?     If  it  be,  I  am  able 

Descriptive  Account  of  Jumaica,  vol.ii.  GG,  66. 

1 S2  Of  the  forced  Labour  of  Slaves 

to  do  so.  Doctor  Collins,  in  noticing  the  sudden  check  of 
perspiration  as  a  frequent  cause  of  the  maladies  of  the  slaves, 
says  the  effect  is  "  to  check  the  perspiration,  which  descends 
"  in  torroits  when  the  negroes  are  in  health  and  at  work.''* 

Surely  then,  it  is  right,  in  this  respect  at  least,  to  "  judge  of 
"  the  constitutions  and  feelings  of  these  poor  creatures  by  our 
"  own,"  though  such  sympathies  are  repressed  by  their  mas- 
ters ;  and  to  add  to  the  enormous  duration,  and  the  intensity 
of  their  work,  the  exhausting  influence  of  the  climate,  in  the 
estimate  we  form  of  their  suft'erinss. 

I  will  not  dismiss  this  branch  of  my  subject  without  again 
confessing,  that  some  of  my  fellow-labourers  have  adopted 
views  of  it  different  from  my  own  ;  alleging  that  the  enormous 
protraction  of  the  work  unavoidably  diminishes  the  energy 
with  which  it  is  performed  :  and  one  or  two  anti-slavery 
writers  have  pushed  that  plausible  theory  so  far  as  to  contend, 
that  what  is  gained  in  time  is  lost  in  effect,  and  that  free 
men  exerting  themselves  willingly,  will  perform-  in  a  given 
time  more  work  than  slaves. 

Those  who  have  held  such  opinions  were,  with  only  two 
exceptions  that  I  recollect,  personally  strangers  to  the  system ; 
and  all  of  them  practically  so;  and,  therefore,  perhaps  did 
not  estimate  sufficiently  high  the  efficacy  of  the  driving  whip. 
They  were  also  naturally  willing  to  adopt  and  propagate  views 
that  tended  to  reconcile  the  disuse  of  brutal  coercion  with  the 
self-interest  of  the  planters.  Nor  can  it  be  altogether  untrue, 
that  the  slaves  often  work,  with  comparative  languor  at  least, 
in  the  more  laborious  toils  of  the  field,  after  they  have  been 
long  continued ;  for  weariness  and  exhaustion,  when  felt  by 
the  gang  at  large,  will  naturally  relax  the  common  exertions, 
in  spite  of  all  that  the  terror  of  the  driver's  voice,  or  actual  in- 
flictions of  his  whip,  can  do  to  prevent  it.  The  frequent  prac- 
tice of  giving  the  extraordinary  nutrition  of  a  piece  of  bread 
or  a  ship  biscuit  and  a  draught  of  grog,  to  recruit  the  strength 
and  raise  the  spirits  of  the  slaves  under  those  heavier  opera- 
tions, sufficiently  proves  that  this  is  found  to  be  the  case. 
Neither  is  it  to  be  denied,  that  there  is  a  most  improvident 
waste  of  work  and  diminution  of  its  general  effect,  through 

*  Practical  Rules,  &.C.,  p.  .08, 

in  point  of  Intensentss.  183 

the  heedless  and  indiscriminate  way  in  which  it  is  exacted, 
and  the  neglect  of  mechanical  aids.  The  slave,  I  admit,  if 
arbiter  of  his  own  exertions,  might  economise  them  so  as 
to  produce  in  a  given  time  a  greater  effect  with  much  less 

But  no  deduction  that  can  reasonably  be  made  on  any  or  all 
of  these  grounds,  will  serve  so  far  to  reduce  the  general  ener- 
gies of  slave-labour,  in  regard  at  least  to  the  actual  pressure 
on  the  workmen,  as  to  make  them  bear  any  comparison  with 
the  greatest  ordinary  exertions  of  free  men  in  similar  kinds 
of  labour,  either  in  this  or  any  other  country.  The  dispa- 
rity in  point  of  time,  however,  is  at  once  the  most  important, 
and  the  most  susceptible  of  clear  investigation.  This,  there- 
fore, I  shall  proceed  to  demonstrate  in  the  following  chapter. 




Though  I  maintain,  and  I  trust  have  proved,  that  the  labours 
of  the  slaves  are,  for  the  most  part,  excessive  in  point  of  inten- 
sity, as  well  as  cruelly  so  in  point  of  time,  it  is  in  the  latter 
respect  alone,  that  I  propose  to  compare  them  with  those  of 
our  English  peasants  ;  because,  for  reasons  already  assigned, 
it  is  in  point  of  time  alone  that  the  positive  amount  of  each 
can  be  measured  or  defined  ;  and  consequently  the  difference 
between  them  clearly  ascertained. 

It  will  be  recollected,  I  hope,  that  the  strange  comparison 
between  the  most  oppressed  and  degraded  beings  that  the  sun 
ever  saw,  and  the  peasantry  of  England,  was  no  idle  choice 
of  mine ;  but  what  the  planters  and  their  advocates  have 
been  bold  enough  to  challenge.  Their  folly,  however,  in  pro- 
voking it,  and  especially  in  that  worst  article  of  their  prac- 
tical oppression,  a  murderous  excess  of  labour,  is  so  surprising, 
that  it  may  be  right  to  shew,  by  some  further  quotations, 
how  frequent  such  temerity  has  been,  and  still  is  among  them  ; 
lest  I  should  be  suspected  of  using  unfairly  against  the  many, 
the  extreme  rashness  of  the  few. 

"  The  work  of  the  negro  slave  in  Jamaica,"  said  the  agent 
and  planters  of  that  island  before  the  Committee  of  Privy 
Council,  "  is  far  less  than  that  of  a  labourer  in  Britain."* 

Piivy  Council  Report,  part  3,  title  Jamaica,  Q.  A.  No.  36. 

Comparison  of  Slave  Labour,  $;c.  185 

Q.  to  Mr,  Gilbert  Francklyn.  "  Upon  consideration  of  food, 
"  labour,  &c.,  have  you  been  able  to  make  any  comparison 
**  between  the  condition  of  negroes  in  the  West  Indies,  and 
"  that  of  poor  labourers  in  this  country,"  &c.  ? 

A.  "  I  do  not  conceive  that  the  poor  of  any  country  are 
"  better  provided  for,  or  live  happier,  than  the  generality 
"  of  negroes  upon  plantations  in  the  West  Indies  ;  their  labour 
"  is  slight;'  &c.* 

Q.  to  Mr.  James  Baillie.  "  In  general  is  the  labour  of  the 
"  slaves  proportioned  to  their  ability,  or  can  it  be  considered 
**  as  severe  ?" 

A,  "  It  is  always  in  proportion  to  their  ability,  and  cannot 
"  be  considered  as  severe,  when  compared  to  the  labour  of  the 
"  lower  order  of  people  in  Europe.i-  On  the  whole  1  am  con- 
'*  vinced,  that  the  labour  of  a  negro  slave,  taken  throughout 
**  the  whole  year,  is  by  no  means  so  severe  as  that  of  an 
"  English  labourer.''^ 

See  also  the  evidence  of  Sir  Ralph  Payne,  afterwards  Lord 
Lavington,  formerly  quoted  expressly  and  strongly  to  the  same 
effect.  § 

These  statements  were  made,  be  it  remembered,  at  a  time 
which  the  recent  champions  of  the  colonies,  and  the  Jamaica 
Assembly  itself,  admit  to  have  been  a  period  of  much 
indefensible  severity  in  the  treatment  of  slaves  ;  and  when, 
among  other  now  repudiated  oppressions,  they  are  admitted  to 
have  been  worked  to  excess.  Is  it  then  also  admitted  by  my 
present  antagonists,  that  the  comparison  with  English  la- 
bourers must,  in  respect  to  that  period  at  least,  be  abandoned? 
By  no  means  :  they  insist  upon  it  still ;  and  are  so  far  from 
retracting  the  statements  of  1790  which  I  have  cited,  as  un- 
true in  respect  of  the  then  existing  case,  that  they  quote  them 
triumphantly,  as  the  testimony  of  respectable  witnesses  given 
before  Parliament,  and  worthy  therefore  of  peculiar  credit. 
Nay,  that  Goliah  of  the  colonial  host,  Mr.  M'Queen,  arraigns 
me  and  my  fellow  labourers  of  unfairness,  in  not  always  bring- 
ing forward  this  former  evidence,  on  the  very  point  now  in 
question.     "  The  labour  of  the  slaves,"  he  says,  "  is  child's 

*  Commons  Report  of  1790,  p.  91-2.  f  Ibid.  187. 

X  Evidence  of  Mr.  Tobin,  same  Report,  266.  §  Supra,  p.  22,  23. 

186  Comparison  of  the  Labour  of  Slaves 

''play,  compared  to  the  loork  performed  by  the  labourers  in 
"  this  coujitry.  Theij  do  not  know  what  hard  labour  is;  and 
"  it  is  not  a  little  remarkable,  that  the  enemies  of  the  colonies 
"  are  now  bringing  forward  in  support  of  their  theories,  that 
"  very  evidence  taken  before  Parliament,  which  they  formerly 
"  either  concealed  or  denied,  which  went  to  prove,  that  one 
"  European  free  man  did  as  much  luork  in  one  day  as  three 
"  negroes. ^^* 

Should  any  reader  still  doubt,  whether  I  am  fairly  taking 
issue  with  my  opponents  in  general  of  the  present  day,  on  these 
bold  comparative  statements,  I  need  only  refer  him  to  the 
printed  Report  of  the  Council  of  Barbadoes  of  July  22, 1823, 
published  and  widely  circulated  by  their  agent  here  in  the 
following  year,  in  which  it  is  maintained  as  stoutly  as  ever, 
that  the  condition  of  the  slave  is  not  only  equal  in  point  of 
comfort,  but  superior  to,  that  of  the  labouring  class  in  this 

In  fact,  few  colonial  witnesses,  or  writers,  among  the  many 
who  have  spoken  and  written  on  the  subject  in  any  stage  of 
the  controversy,  have  been  prudent  enough  not  to  challenge 
or  invite  the  same  extravagant  comparison.  One  of  the  latest 
of  them,  Mr.  Dwarris,  has  alone,  I  think,  noticed  the  topic 
with  a  discreet  forbearance,  by  saying,  "  I  am  not  of  the  num- 
"  ber  of  those  who  will  compare  the  predial  slave  to  the 
"  English  labourer,  in  the  latter's  day  of  manly  health  and 
**  strength.":]; 

Let  me  proceed  then  to  take  up  this  gage  thrown  down  by 
almost  all  my  antagonists,  and  to  state  what  are  the  ordinary 
portions  of  working  time,  which  the  best  wages  obtain  from  the 
ablest  agricultural  labourers  in  England. 

Most  of  my  readers  probably  know  well  what  these  cus- 
tomary portions  are.  But  from  a  desire  to  obtain  the  most  ac- 
curate and  particular  information  on  the  subject,  for  the  use  of 
those  who  are  not  conversant  with  rural  affairs,  T  wrote  for  it 
long  since  to  two  geatlemen  of  landed  property,  and  much  intel- 
ligence, the  one  in  Cambridgeshire,  the  other  in  Leicestershire, 

*  West  India  Colonies,  &c.  p.  258-9. 

f  Report  of  a  Committee  of  the  Council  of  Barbadoes,  juiblislicd  by  Sior, 
Loudan,  1824,  p.  23-4,  &c. 
t  The  West  India  (iueslion,  tVc.,  p,  20, 

with  that  of  English  Peasants.  187 

both  experienced  farmers  on  their  own  estates  ;  and  their  ac- 
counts received  by  me  in  answer,  agree  in  the  following  state- 
ment; which  I  will,  therefore,  transcribe, 

"  The  time  which  the  day-labourers  in  husbandry  usually 
'*  continue  at  their  work,  may  on  an  average  throughout  the 
"  year,  be  estimated  at  nine  hours  per  diem." 

"  From  Michaelmas  to  Christmas,  making  allowance  for 
"  the  different  lengths  of  the  days,  they  come  to  their  work, 
"  one  day  with  another,  at  seven  in  the  morning,  and  leave  it 
"  at  five  in  the  afternoon.  Deducting  two  hours  and  a  half 
"  for  meals,  going,  and  coming,  there  will  remain  seven  hours 
"  and  a  half  of  clear  labour.  The  same  estimate  may  be  made 
"  for  the  following  quarter.  From  Lady-day  to  Midsummer, 
*'  they  come  to  their  work  at  six  o'clock,  and  leave  it  at  the 
"  same  hour  in  the  evening ;  but  as  the  season  is  warmer, 
"  they  are  a  longer  time  absent  from  their  work  (about  three 
"  hours),  which  will  leave  nine  hours  for  work.  In  the  other 
"  quarters,  as  the  hay-season  and  the  harvest  comprehend  the 
"  greater  part  of  it,  their  wages  are  considerably  higher,  and 
"  more  work  is  done ;  and  it  may  fairly  be  estimated  that 
"  from  to  Michaelmas,  a  labourer,  after  all  de- 
"  ductions  for  meals,  going  and  coming,  and  every  other  cause 
**  of  absence,  is  twelve  hours  at  his  work,  one  day  with  ano- 
*'  ther.  The  average  hours  of  work,  in  these  several  portions 
"  of  the  year,  will  amount  to  nine  hours  per  diem,  viz. 

Hours  per  diem. 
"  Michaelmas  to  Christmas       -  -     7| 

"  Christmas  to  Lady-day     -         -         -     7| 
"  Lady-day  to  Midsummer        -  -     9 

"  Midsummer  to  Michaelmas       -         -  12 

36 — which, 
"  divided  by  four,  gives  an  average  of  nine  hours." 

A  highly  intelligent  friend  who  resides  in  Kent,  and  has 
long  farmed  lands  of  his  own  there,  has  since  confirmed  this 
estimate  to  me  on  his  own  experience  and  observation.  I  be- 
lieve it,  therefore,  to  be  accurate,  and  applicable  (with  small 
variations  arising- from  difference  of  latitude  and  modes  of  a«:ri- 
cultural  operations)  to  every  part  of  tlie  kingdom  ;  except 
that,    from    the    present    unfortunate    circumstances    of    the 

188  Comparison  of  the  Labour  of  Slaves 

country,  in  respect  of  the  poor  laws,  and  want  of  full  em- 
ployment, the  time  of  labour,  in  many  places,  is  now  mate- 
rially reduced. 

What,  then,  are  the  comparative  results  ?  They  are,  that 
the  time  of  the  slave-labour,  to  the  time  of  the  free-labour,  is, 
on  an  average  of  the  whole  year,  as  sixteen,  at  least,  to  nine  ; 
that  the  minimum  of  the  former,  much  exceeds  the  maximum 
of  the  latter;  that  in  the  crop-season  of  five  months'  duration, 
the  West  India  slave  has  but  one-half  at  most  of  the  diurnal 
respite  which  the  English  labourer  enjoys,  even  in  the  labo- 
rious harvest  quarter,  viz.  six  hours,  (not  to  say  five  only,)  in- 
stead of  twelve. 

The  only  consideration  that  can  be  alleged  to  alleviate,  in 
any  degree,  this  contrast,  is  that  the  English  labourer,  like 
the  slave,  has  to  walk  to  and  from  his  place  of  daily  work, 
though  he  has  not  his  meals  to  prepare  from  a  raw  state,  and 
dress,  as  a  further  abridgment  of  his  daily  respites  ;  still  less 
to  renounce  his  dinner,  that  he  may  have  time  to  raise  his 
food.  But  if  the  reader  thinks  that  some  allowance  should 
be  made  for  his  walks,  to  make  the  comparison,  in  all  respects, 
unobjectionable  in  regard  to  times  of  rest,  let  it  be  remem- 
bered that,  in  taking  sixteen  hours  as  the  annual  average  of 
the  slave's  occupations,  for  the  purpose  of  this  comparison,  I 
have  gratuitously  struck  off  the  fraction  of  forty  minutes 
from  the  result  of  a  calculation  in  which  I  had  previously  taken 
every  doubtful  or  disputable  portion  of  those  occupations  at 
the  lowest  probable  estimate  :  let  it  be  remembered  also,  that  I 
have  left  Sabbath-work  wholly  out  of  the  account.  If,  ne- 
vertheless, some  abatement  of  the  vast  difference  should  be 
claimed  in  respect  of  the  English  labourer's  walks,  or  any 
other  ordinary  addition  to  the  time  of  actual  work  for  his 
employer,  the  claim  might  be  largely  allowed,  without  any 
material  benefit  to  the  case  of  my  opponents,  or  prejudice  to 
my  own.  Enough  of  indisputable  fact  would  remain  to  make 
the  contrast  enormously  great. 

I  might  safely  even  here  restore  to  the  possession  of  my  oppo- 
nents, most  of  the  artful  glosses,  fallacies  and  impostmes, 
which,  by  reviewing  their  own  evidence,  I  have  wrested  from 
their  hands.  Supposing  the  noontide,  as  well  as  the  morning  re- 
spite, to  be  time  of  actual  rest,  the  field-work  to  begin  and  end 
at  six,  instead  of  five  and  seven,  and  no  necessary  employment  to 

ivith  that  of  English  Feasants.  189 

precede  the  driver's  morning  muster,  or  follow  his  evening 
dismissal ;  nay,  supposing  we  were  generally  to  adopt  that 
gross  standing  sophism  of  my  opponents,  in  their  delusive 
use  of  the  terms  labour  and  I'e^t,  including  in  the  former  only 
the  work  enforced  by  the  whip  for  the  direct  immediate  profit 
of  the  master,  and  giving  the  name  of  rest  or  leisure  to  every 
other  employment,  however  fatiguing,  of  men  and  women 
who  have  to  provide  for  their  own  support ;  and  were  we  more- 
over to  reduce  the  labours  of  a  five-months'  harvest  to  the  lowest 
amount  that  the  most  disingenuous  colonist  has  alleged, — still 
the  time  of  slave-labour  between  the  tropics,  woould  be  found 
very  largely  to  exceed  all  that  the  best  wages  and  competi- 
tion for  employment  can  obtain  from  the  free  peasantry  of 
England.  But  when  the  reader  contemplates  the  real  dura- 
tion of  slave-work  as  demonstrated  in  a  former  chapter,  recol- 
lecting, at  the  same  time,  that  it  is  exacted  from  both  sexes 
alike ;  and  that,  while  the  English  peasant  is  recruited  every 
week  by  an  inviolable  Sabbath  rest,  the  poor  field-negro  has, 
for  the  most  part,  on  that  day,  little  more  than  a  change  of 
work ;  he  will,  I  doubt  not,  feel  both  astonishment  and  in- 
dignation at  those  bold  impositions  on  the  British  public, 
which    have  called  for  these  comparative  views. 

The  comparison,  after  all,  or  rather  the  shocking  and  op- 
probrious contrast,  would  be  very  imperfect,  if  we  were  to 
look  no  further  than  the  respective  times  of  labour.  Two 
considerations  of  vast  importance  remain  to  be  taken  into  the 
account,  viz.  the  different  climates  in  which  the  work  is  to  be 
performed,  and  the  distressing  means  by  which  that  of  the 
West  Indies  is  enforced. 

The  latter  is  so  momentous  a  subject,  and  involves  so  many 
kinds  of  pernicious  and  odious  oppression,  that  it  would  be 
wrong  to  treat  of  it  incidentally,  merely  as  an  aggravation  of 
the  general  excess  of  toil.  It  well  deserves  to  be  the  subject 
of  a  separate  division  in  this  work ;  especially  as  I  have  to 
redeem  it,  like  the  rest,  from  gross  controversial  falsehood. 
But  let  me  here  observe,  by  the  way,  that  a  given  duration 
of  work,  which  might  be  moderate  if  regulated  by  the  will  of 
each  individual  workman,  as  to  its  modes,  its  continuity,  and 
its   pauses,  might  become  excessive  and  intolerable,  when  in- 

190  Comparison  of  tJie  Lahoni  of  Slaves. 

discriminately  enforced  on  a  great  number  of  men  and  women 
of  different  degrees  of  strength,  by  the  coercion  or  present 
terror  of  the  whip.  Postponing  this  sad  topic  for  the  present, 
let  us  look  for  a  moment  at  the  extreme  inequality  between 
a  given  portion  of  field-labour  performed  in  England,  and  the 
same  portion  of  it  in  the  torrid  zone. 

Here  I  must  request  my  readers  to  look  back  on  my  pre- 
liminary remarks  on  this  subject,  and  the  authorities  by  which 
they  were  supported.*  We  have  seen  what  are  the  instinctive 
universal  propensities  of  the  human  race,  in  respect  of  labour 
or  repose  between  the  tropics,  and  the  strong  reasons  we  have 
for  believing  that  these  propensities  were  implanted  in  us  by 
the  gracious  Author  of  our  frames,  for  self-conservatory  ends. 
He  who  does  nothing  in  vain,  nothing  unwisely,  has  been 
fairly  shewn  by  my  zealous  antagonist.  Major  Moody,  to  have 
provided  a  triple  natural  safeguard  against  voluntary  excess  of 
labour  under  a  vertical  sun,  by  the  great  bounty  of  nature  in 
the  production  of  food  in  that  climate,  by  the  aversion  which 
all  men  naturally  feel  there  to  long  continued  labour  in  the 
sun,  and  by  their  love  of  repose  and  of  the  shade  ;  whereas 
in  England,  field-labour,  unless  pushed  beyond  the  strength 
of  the  workman,  is  at  most  seasons  opposed  by  no  such 
propensities,  but  by  a  vicious  love  of  idleness  in  the  ill-re- 
gulated mind,  alone.  Though  labour,  when  a  necessary  task, 
is  in  some  degree  every  where  unpleasant,  many  independent 
and  affluent  men  here,  often  take  from  choice  as  much  bodily 
exercise,  though  of  a  different  kind,  as  the  day-labourers 
around  them  :  but  the  master  in  a  hot  climate,  though  a 
native  of  it,  is  like  his  servant,  prone  to  indolence  or  bodily 
inaction.  It  is  the  case  with  white  Creoles  to  a  proverb  ;  and 
is  admitted,  even  by  men  of  their  own  party  in  this  contro- 
versy, to  be  their  general  characteristic. 

What,  then,  are  we  to  conclude  as  to  the  point  in  ques- 
tion ?  Are  habits  that  violently  controul  our  natural  propen- 
sities, more  easy  than  those  which  fall  in  with  them  ?  Is 
excessive  labour  less  oppressive  to  the  mind  and  body  of  the 
slave,  because  it  is  what  his  nature  strongly  revolts  at,  and 

See  Chiipter  H 

with  that  of  English  Peasants.  191 

because  it  deprives  him  during  the  solar  hours  of  that  rest  and 
refreshment  in  the  shade,  which  are  his  main  desire  and  de- 
light ?  Or  are  there  such  benign  virtues  in  the  driving  whip, 
that  they  sustain  hi#  strength,  exhilarate  his  spirits,  and  con- 
vert repugnance  and  pain,  into  animal  gratification  ?  Either 
these  absurdities  are  truths,  or  the  same  continuity  of  field- 
labour  which  our  peasantry  sustain,  would  be  in  a  high  de- 
gree irksome  and  severe  to  the  slaves  of  a  sugar  estate. 
What,  then,  must  be  its  duplication  !  !  What  less  than  it 
really  is  to  a  large  part  of  them,  exhaustion  and  weakness, 
sickness,  and  premature  death  ? 




Section  I.  —  Preliminary  Remarks. 

One  of  the  many  difficulties  which  an  advocate  of  the  unfor- 
tunate slaves  has  to  encounter,  is  that  of  determining  what  part 
of  the  premises  he  has  to  reason  upon  may  be  safely  assumed  ; 
and  what  part  of  them  it  may  be  necessary  or  expedient  to 
prove  ;  or  rather  to  prove  anew  ;  for  on  the  one  hand  he  may 
be  thought  needlessly  to  trespass  on  the  patience  of  his 
readers  ;  and  on  the  other  hand  maybe  prejudiced  by  doubts 
that  may  have  been  produced  in  their  minds  through  stale  and 
often  refuted,  but  boldly  reiterated  falsehoods. 

If  in  any  part  of  the  case,  I  might  now  be  relieved  from  this 
difficulty,  it  would  seem  to  be  the  odious  practice  of  driving ; 
for  though  an  account  of  it,  which  I  published  near  twenty- 
eight  years  ago,  was  then  boldly  denied  by  the  colonial  party, 
and  was  arraigned  of  falsehood  and  calumny,  even  by  some 
respectable  colonial  proprietors  in  their  parliamentary  places, 
it  has  been  since  so  clearly  confirmed  by  many  of  the  planters 
themselves,  and  their  partizans,  that  its  veracity  might  be 
supposed  to  be  placed  quite  beyond  the  reach  of  contradiction 
or  doubt.  The  practice  too  has  become,  if  we  except  some 
idle  glosses  on  its  actual  nature,  a  subject  not  only  of  avowal, 
but  of  tenacious  defence,  by  the  colonial  assemblies,  and  their 
controversial  champions  in  this  country.  Nor  is  there  one  of 
the  reformations  proposed  by  his  Majesty's  government,  in 

hy  which  Slave  Labour  is  enforced.  193 

pursuance  of  the  resolutions  of  parliament,  to  which  a  more 
general  and  obstinate  opposition  has  been  given,  than  that  of 
laying  aside  the  driving  whip. 

Ought  I  then  to  detain  my  readers  by  now  adducing  evi- 
dence to  shew  that  the  slaves  are  really  driven?  I  feel  that 
the  tolerably  well  informed  part  of  them  will  regard  it  as  a 
most  superfluous  work  ;  but  so  very  important  is  this  part  of 
the  case,  and  so  formidable  are  the  powers  of  bold  and  artful 
misrepresentations,  when  the  impostures  of  the  press  are 
seconded  by  a  thousand  self-interested  tongues,  that  I  dare 
not  eveii  in  this  instance  leave  any  inlet  to  scepticism,  when  I 
can  close  it  by  irrefragable  proofs. 

I  will,  therefore,  in  the  first  place  describe  this  brutal  method 
of  coercion  in  the  very  words  of  the  description  which  I  gave 
of  it  to  the  public,  in  a  work  long  since  out  of  print,  early  in 
the  year  1802 ;  it  is  ofl'ered,  I  beg  my  readers  again  to  ob- 
serve, not  as  matter  of  evidence ;  but  as  merely  an  exposition 
of  the  case,  which  I  undertake  to  prove.  I  think  it  better  and 
fairer  in  this  instance,  as  I  did  in  quoting  Mr.  Ramsay's 
pamphlet,  to  shew  exactly  what  the  statements  that  led  to 
the  long  continued  and  yet  subsisting  controversy  originally 
were,  than  to  substitute  any  terms  that  are  new. 

It  was  with  almost  equal  fulness  published  in  an  Appendix, 
No.  5,  to  my  former  volume;  but  as  that  book,  which  has  been 
long,  like  the  former,  out  of  print,  is  not  likely  to  be  in  the 
possession  of  all  who  may  read  the  present,  and  as  the  state- 
ment is  one  which  I  shall  here  have  to  support  by  evidence,  as 
well  as  to  apply  and  reason  upon,  it  is  excusable,  and  per- 
haps necessary,  to  give  the  extract  again. 

Section  II.  —  Driving  described. 

My  account  of  the  practice  was  as  follows  :  —  "  Every  man 
"  who  has  heard  any  thing  of  West  India  affairs  is  acquainted 
"  with  the  term  negro  drivers,  and  knows,  or  may  know,  that 
"  the  slaves  in  their  ordinary  field-labour  are  driven  to  their 
*'  work,  and  during  their  work,  in  the  strict  sense  of  the  term 
"  driven  as  used  in  Europe ;  though  this  statement  no  more 

vor,.  11.  o 

194  Of  the  cruel  and  'pernicious  Means 

"  implies  that  the  lash  is  incessantly,  or  with  any  needless 
"  frequency,  applied  to  their  backs,  than  the  phrase  to  drive 
"  a  team  of  horses  imports,  that  the  waggoner  is  continually 
"  smacking  his  whip."  "  It  is  enough  for  my  purpose,  that 
"  in  point  of  fact  no  feature  of  West  India  slavery  is  better 
"  known,  or  less  liable  to  controversy,  or  doubt,  than  this  es- 
"  tablished  method  in  which  field-labour  is  enforced."  (So  I 
certainly  thought  when  penning  those  paragraphs  for  the  pub- 
lic. I  had  not  then  sufficiently  learnt  of  what  temerity  in 
assertion  my  opponents  were  capable  when  their  bad  cause 
required  it.)  "  But  a  nearer  and  more  particular  view  of  this 
"  leading  characteristic  may  be  necessary  to  those  who  have 
"  never  seen  a  gang  of  negroes  at  their  work." 

"  When  employed  in  the  labour  of  the  field,  as  for  example 
"  in  holeing  a  cane-pieee,  i.  e.  in  turning  up  the  ground  into 
"  parallel  trenches  for  the  teception  of  the  cane-plants,  the 
"  slaves  of  both  sexes,  from  twenty  perhaps  to  fourscore  in 
"  number,  are  drawn  out  in  a  line,  like  troops  on  a  parade, 
"■  each  with  a  hoe  in  his  or  her  hand ;  and  close  to  them  in  the 
"  rear  is  stationed  a  driver,  or  drivers,  in  number  duly  pro- 
"  portioned  to  that  of  the  gang.  Each  of  the  drivers,  who  are 
"  always  the  most  vigorous  and  active  negroes  on  the  estate, 
"  has  in  his  hand,  or  coiled  round  his  neck,  from  which  by  ex- 
**  tending  the  handle  it  can  be  disengaged  in  a  moment,  a 
"  long  thick  and  strongly  plaited  whip,  called  a  cart-whip  ; 
"  the  report  of  which  is  as  loud,  and  the  lash  as  severe,  as 
"  those  of  the  whips  in  common  use  with  our  waggoners ;  and 
"  which  he  has  authority  to  apply  at  the  instant  when  his  eye 
"  perceives  an  occasion,  without  any  previous  warning.  Thus 
"  disposed,  their  work  begins,  and  continues  without  inter- 
"  ruption  for  a  certain  number  of  hours,  during  which  at  the 
*'  peril  of  the  drivers  an  adequate  portion  of  land  must  be 
"  holed." 

"  As  the  trenches  are  generally  rectilinear,  and  the  whole 
"  line  of  holers  advances  together,  it  is  necessary  that  every 
"  hole  or  section  of  the  trench  should  be  finished  in  equal 
^'  time  with  the  rest ;  and  if  any  one  or  more  negroes  were 
"  allowed  to  throw  the  hoe  with  less  rapidity  or  energy  than 
"  their  companions  in  other  parts  of  the  line,  it  is  obvious 

bif  tvliich  Slave  Labour  is  enforced.  195 

*'  that  the  work  of  the  latter  must  be  suspended,  or  else  such 
"  part  of  the  trench  as  is  passed  over  by  the  former  will  be 
"  more  imperfectly  formed  than  the  rest.  It  is,  therefore, 
"  the  business  of  the  drivers  not  only  to  urge  forward  the 
"  whole  gang  with  sufficient  speed,  but  sedulously  to  watch 
*'  that  all  in  the  line,  whether  male  or  female,  old  or  young, 
"  strong  or  feeble,  work  as  nearly  as  possible  in  equal  time, 
*•  and  with  equal  effect.  The  tardy  stroke  must  be  quicken- 
"  ed,  and  the  languid  invigorated,  and  the  whole  line  made 
**  to  dress,  in  the  military  phrase,  as  it  advances :  No  breath- 
**  ing  time,  no  resting  on  the  hoe,  no  pause  of  langour,  to 
"  be  repaid  by  brisker  exertion  on  return  to  work,  can  be 
"  allowed  to  individuals.  All  must  work  or  pause  to- 
"  gether." 

"  I  have  taken  this  work,  (it  was  added,)  as  the  strongest 
"  example  :  but  other  labours  of  the  plantation  are  conducted 
''  on  the  same  principle,  and  as  nearly  as  may  be  practicable, 
"  in  the  same  manner.  When  the  nature  of  the  work  does 
"  not  admit  of  the  slaves  being  drawn  up  in  line  abreast, 
*'  they  are  disposed,  when  the  measure  is  feasible,  in  some 
"  other  regular  order,  for  the  facility  of  the  driver's  super- 
"  intendance  and  coercion.  In  carrying  the  canes,  for  instance, 
"  from  the  field  to  the  mill,  they  are  marched  in  files,  each 
"  with  a  bundle  on  his  head,  and  with  the  driver  in  the  rear : 
"  His  voice  quickens  their  pace,  and  his  whip  when  neces- 
"  sary  urges  on  those  who  attempt  to  deviate,  or  loiter  on 
"  their  march."* 

Section.  III. — Denials  and  misrepresentations  of  the  practice 
stated  and  refuted. 

Cavils  were  made  by  different  antagonists  at  some  parts  of 
this  description,  which  I  will  not  stop  particularly  to  notice, 
because  they  have  been  either  grounded  on  palpable  miscon- 
structions, and  mutilations  of  the  text,  or  related  to  circum- 
stances obviously  of  no  importance.     But  some  colonial  pro- 

*  The  Crisis  of  the  Suoar  Colonies.     Hatchavd,  1802,  p.  9  to  12. 

o  2 

,1 96  Of  the  cruel  and  pernicious  Means 

piietors  of  great  respectability,  declared  in  the  House  of 
Commons,  soon  after  the  appearance  of  the  work,  in  general 
terms,  that  the  account  was  false  ;  or  at  least  that  they  were 
so  informed  and  so  believed;  though  the  more  ordinary  course 
then,  as  now,  was  to  pretend  that  the  driver  did  not,  and 
"  dared  not  use  his  whip  ;  that  it  was  a  mere  symbol  of  his 
"  office,  like  the  staff  or  laced  hat  of  a  parish  beadle,  and 
**  that  he  was  a  mere  superintendant  of  the  work. 

Mr.  Dallas,  in  his  history  of  the  Maroon  war,  a  work 
that  soon  after  appeared,  asserted  on  his  own  experience  in 
Jamaica,  that  the  driver's  whip  was  a  mere  emblem  of 
office.  He  affected  to  advise  the  planters  to  lay  it  aside, 
in  order  to  avoid  insidious  misrepresentations  of  the  business 
of  the  driver,  "  unhickili/  so  called,''  and  to  propose  that  in  its 
stead  he  "  should  have  a  laced  hat,  and  a  lono-  staff  like  a 
drum-major's."*  Others  again,  like  the  Barbadoes  Assembly 
at  this  period,  thinking  such  impostures  too  gross,  asserted 
only  that  restrictions  were  imposed  on  the  driver's  power  or 
practice  of  whipping.  "  The  overseer  (meaning  as  the  con- 
"  text  shews,  the  driver),  is  never  permitted  to  inflict  any 
"  punishment,  except  an  occasional  lash  during  the  time  of 
"  work  ;  and  that  is  generally  given  over  the  clothes. "+ 

The  same  pretexts,  inconsistent  and  absurd  though  they 
are,  and  often  refuted  by  myself  and  others  on  the  most  de- 
cisive evidence,  are  still  in  current  use  among  the  apologists 
of  slavery  ;  and  have  again  been  brought  forward,  with  more 
than  ordinary  boldness,  by  that  highly  favoured  and  munifi- 
cently rewarded  champion  of  the  planters,  Mr.  M'Queen. 

1  have  cited  from  that  writer  already,;}:  his  idle  attempts  to 
disprove  the  driving  practice,  on  the  ground  of  the  driver's 
precession  to  the  place  of  labour  at  the  dawn.  But  he  does 
not  stop  there;  he  has  the  inconceivable  confidence  to  add, 
''  loherever  they  go,  or  whatever  theij  are  about,  he  goes  before 

*  Hist,  of  the  Maroons,  vol.  ii.  p.  419—20. 

t  Evidence  of  Mr.  Kerby,  a  planter  of  Antigua  ;  Report  of  1790,  p.  309. 
(See  Admiral  Edwards's  testimony  that  they  in  general  "  icorkcd  nuked.'" 
Same  Report,  p.  412.)  He  meant  no  doubt  to  the  waist,  which  is  still  a  very 
ordinary  case. 

X  Supra,  p.  120. 

hij  which  Slave  Labour  is  enforced.  197 

"  them,  and  stands  before  them,  and  not  behind  them  ;  nor  dare 
*'  he  use  a  whip  to  any  one  unless  he  is  commanded.''* 

Lest  it  should  be  supposed  that  I  take  advantage  of  the 
rashness  of  this  dashing  pensioner  of  tlie  planters,  to  prejudice 
his  employers  unfairly jf  and  that  he  has  here  exceeded  his 
instructions,  let  nie  also  quote  a  concurrent  authority  no  less 
respectable  than  that  of  the  council  and  assembly  of  St.  Vin- 
cent, in  a  solemn  address  to  their  Governor,  Sir  Charles  Bris- 
bane, dated  the  4th  September,  1823,  which  was  officially 
transmitted  in  answer  to  Earl  Bathurst's  circular  letter,  recom- 
mending to  them  reformations  of  their  slave  code,  and  is  still 
referred  to  by  some  of  my  opponents  as  a  paper  of  great  au- 

"  It  is  true,"    they  say,    "  that  on  most  plantations  the 

*  West  India  Colonies,  &,c.  p.  256. 

f  Having  mentioned  this  writer  more  than  once  as  a  mercenary  antago- 
nist, employed  by  the  assemblies  and  planters,  and  largely  paid  by  them  for 
his  pre-eminent  zeal  in  their  service,  it  may  be  right  to  apprise  my  readers, 
that  the  fact  of  his  liberal  retainers,  is  far  from  being  matter  of  secrecy  or  re- 
serve in  the  sugar  colonies.  His  rewards  have  been  repeatedly  announced 
in  strains  of  eulogy  by  various  newspapers  there;  and  I  have  now  before  me, 
the  Jamaica  Courant  of  April  2Q,  1828,  in  which  the  fact  of  his  having 
received  in  one  instance  3000/.  sterling  is  noticed  in  a  different  stile. 
*'  iou  Master  M' Queen  have  received  3000/.  sterling  )?ione>/,"  and  again, 
^'  You  Master  M'Queen  are  the  hired  advocate  of  slavery.^' 

That  this  should  be  cast  in  his  teeth  in  the  West  Indies,  where  no 
printer  dares  commonly  insert  a  single  line  in  opposition  to  the  common 
cause,  may  seem  somewhat  strange.  The  explanation  is,  that  Mr.  M'Queen  is 
thus  contemptuously  treated  for  having  censured  the  alleged  communica- 
tion to  a  Jamaica  printer  of  the  Duke  of  Manchester's  private  letter 
to  Lord  Bathurst,  and  for  his  opposition  to  Mr.  Beaumont  and  his  pamphlet 
entitled,  "  Compensation  to  Slave  Owners  ;"  a  work  which,  it  is  added,  "  has 
"  obtained  the  sanction  of  all  liberal  men  in  Jamaica,"  and  "  their  most 
"  flattering  testimonials  of  their  approval,  Jiot  by  a  sum  of  money.  Master 
"  M'Queen,  for  endeavouring  to  persuade  the  people  of  Great  Britain,  that 
"  slavery  is  a  choice  blessing  of  humanity  ;  an  attempt  as  hopeless  as  it  is  dis- 
"  graceful,  arid  which  every  reasoning  man  must  laugh  at." 

The  dupes  of  this  writer's  incessant  misrepresentations  and  railings  against 
me,  and  all  the  opponents  of  slavery,  will  here  see  what  is  thought  of  their 
understandings  where  the  real  case  is  known  ;  and  may,  perhaps,  lose  some 
of  their  confidence  in  tlic  Glasgow  Courier,  Blackwood's  Magazine,  the 
Morning  Journal,  and  other  ordinary  vehicles  of  his  mercenary  labours. 

J  98  Of  the  cruel  and  pernicious  Means 

"  driver,  as  he  is  called  {for  the  West  Indians  have  been  ex- 
"  tremely  wfortunate  in  terms,)  or  the  negro  overseer,  who  is 
"  always  promoted  to  this  situation  for  his  superior  intelligence 
"  honestly,  and  humanity,  whose  employment  is  to  collect  the 
"  labourers  in  the  field,  and  to  superintend  them  at  their 
"  work,  carries  this  cart-whip  in  his  hand  as  a  symbol  of  his 
"  authority.  Itis  his  business  to  repairto  the  placeoflabourearly 
"  in  the  morning,  and  by  the  crack  of  his  whip,  to  give  notice 
"  to  the  negroes  that  it  is  time  for  them  to  assemble,  as  well  as 
"  of  the  place  where  their  presence  is  required.  The  same  use  is 
"  made  of  the  whip  at  noon  and  atnight,  as  a  signal  that  they 
"  may  give  up  work  and  retire  to  their  homes.  But  the  reading 
'•'  of  the  18th  section  of  the  slave  act,  already  quoted,  must 
"  be  convincing  proof  that  this  driver  is  neither  required,  nor 
"  permitted  to  punish  the  negroes  under  his  charge  at  his 
"  will  and  pleasure :  for  the  legislature  which  restrained  its 
"  use  in  the  overseer  of  the  estate,  to  whom  such  an  extensive 
"  and  valuable  property  is  often  solely  entrusted,  and  forbids 
"  his  inflicting  more  than  ten  stripes,  unless  the  proprietor  or 
"  his  representative  be  present,  could  never  have  contemplat- 
"  ed  that  the  negro  driver  was  to  whip  at  his  own  discretion. 
"  The  truth  is,  that  no  such  practice  being  allowed,  the  legislature 
"  did  not  provide  against  that  which  never  did,  and  never 
"  COULD  HAPPEN.  A  good  disposed  negro  has  nothing  to 
''  fear  from  the  driver;  and  one  of  a  different  character  has  only 
''  to  dread  a  representation  of  his  negligence  or  improper  behaviour 
*'  to  the  manager  at  noon^  or  in  the  evening,  xvhen  he  makes  his 
"  report  of  the  business  of  the  day^  ^'c* 

Here  we  have  Mr.  McQueen  not  only  confirmed,  but,  I 
must  confess,  much  surpassed,  in  those  merits  which  have 
earned  for  him  such  high  colonial  plaudits,  and  munificent 
rewards.  The  passage  well  deserves  particular  and  close  at- 
tention, as  an  instructive  specimen  of  the  candour  and  veracity 
to  be  looked  for  in  West  Indian  documents  on  these  sub- 
jects, even  when  they  emanate  from  the  highest  local  au- 

*  Communication  from  Sir  Charles  Brisbane,  governor  of  St.  Vincent 
&c.  and  joint  reply  of  the  Council  and  Assembly;  printed  by  C.  M.  Willick, 
London,  and  largely  distributed  by  the  West  India  party  here,  p.  43,  44. 

hif  which  Slave  Labour  is  enforced.  190 

The  argumentative  part  of  the  imposition  is  curious  enough. 
Because  these  colonial  legislators  had  so  far  complied  with 
the  long-continued  solicitations  of  the  mother  country,  as  not 
to  leave  the  most  cruel  excesses  in  the  use  of  the  vindictive 
whip,  without  any  legal  restraint,  we  are  gravely  desired  to 
infer  that  they  could  not  mean  to  permit  the  use  of  the  coer- 
cive or  driving  Mvh\p  at  all ;  though  it  is,  in  their  own  estimate, 
as  we  shall  presently  see,  the  main  spring  of  their  agri- 
cultural system.  It  would  be  just  as  fair  and  as  rational  to 
infer,  that  because  parliament,  a  few  years  ago,  at  the  instance 
of  Mr.  Martin,  made  a  law  to  restrain  wanton  cruelty  towards 
horses  and  other  working  cattle,  it  could  not  mean  to  permit 
coachmen  or  carmen  to  use  whips  in  their  ordinary  business ; 
and,  consequently,  that  any  such  practice  as  the  driving  coach 
or  cart-horses  with  whips,  must  have  been  unknown  at  the 
time  in  this  country. 

What  were  the  prohibitions  to  which  these  gentlemen 
refer  ?  To  quote  them  from  their  own  context,  they  are, 
"  That,  in  order  to  restrain  arbitrary  punishment,  no  slave  on 
"  any  plantation  or  estate  shall  receive  more  than  ten  stripes 
"  at  one  time,  and  for  one  offence,  unless  the  owner,  attorney, 
"  guardian,  executor,  administrator,  or  manager  of  such  plan- 
"  tation  or  estate,  having  such  slave  under  his  care,  shall  be 
"  present ;  and  no  such  owner,  &c.  shall  on  any  account 
"  punish  a  slave  with  more  than  thirty-nine  stripes,  at  one 
"  time,  or  for  one  offence,  &.c.  under  a  penalty  not  less  than 
"  15/.,  or  more  than  30/.  for  every  such  offence,  to  be  re- 
"  covered,"  &,c.* 

The  same  idle  restrictions  had  been  long  before  enacted  in 
other  colonies ;  but  none  of  their  authors  have  been  ingenious 
enough  to  make  this  use  of  them ;  and  some  of  their  cham- 
pions, while  taking  ample  credit  for  such  laws,  recognize, 
nevertheless,  the  subsisting  use  of  the  driver's  whip,  and  de- 
fend it  as  a  necessary  practice. 

These  lawgivers  of  St.  Vincent,  it  will  be  observed,  virtually 
admit  that  if  the  driver  had  the  power  of  whipping,  in  any 
degree,  by  his  own   authority,  it  was  a  power  that  ought  to 

Ibid.  p.  30. 

200  Of  the  cruel  and  pernicious  Means 

have  been  abolished  ;  and  also  that  its  abolition  was  not  within 
the  purview  of  their  enactments.  In  the  latter  admission, 
there  certainly  was  nothing  gratuitous ;  for  what  are  the 
sanctions  in  the  clause  they  cite  ?  Pecuniaiy  penalties  only, 
to  he  recovered  by  legal  proceedings.  The  offences  in  contem- 
plation, therefore,  could  only  have  been  those  committed  by 
free  persons ;  whereas  the  drivers  are  universally  slaves, 
against  whom  no  such  proceedings  could  have  place.  Had 
it  been  meant  to  restrain  them,  corporal  punishments  only 
would,  as  usual,  have  been  ordained  for  their  transgressions. 

But  it  is  confessed  that  there  was  no  such  meaning ;  and 
these  honourable  legislators  gravely  desire  the  British  public 
to  believe,  that  it  was  merely  because  it  had  never  entered  **  into 
"  their  contemplation'''  to  suppose  that  the  drivers  coidd  ever  use 
their  whips  at  all,  except  by  the  manager's  order  on  their  return 
to  the  homestall.  '-They  did  not  provide  against  that  which  never 
"  did,  and  never  could  happen ! ! .'" 

We  must  conclude,  then,  if  we  admit  their  excuse  or  ex- 
planation, or,  indeed,  if  we  would  acquit  them  of  direct  and 
flagrant  falsehood,  that  they  had  never,  during  a  controversy 
of  above  thirty  years  continuance,  in  which  they  themselves 
had  been  earnestly  engaged,  heard  a  word  of  that  which  has 
so  long  been  a  prominent  charge  against  their  system  among 
anti-slavery  writers  !  !  This  is  the  more  surprising,  because 
they  do  me  the  honour  to  notice,  in  the  same  paper,  my  la- 
bours in  this  cause,  though  in  no  complimentary  strains ; 
and  I  am  certainly  guiltless  of  having  omitted,  in  any  of  my 
writings,  to  bring  forward  the  driving  practice  with  the  strong 
reprehension  that  it  deserves. 

If  the  charges  of  their  opponents  had  been  unknown,  we 
must,  to  support  their  veracity,  further  suppose  them  igno- 
rant, that  gentlemen  of  their  own  party,  aye,  and  planters  of 
their  own  small  island,  had  strangely  alleged  and  censured 
the  general  practice  of  this  thing,  *'  which  never  did  and  never 
'*  could  happen  /"  They  had  not,  we  must  presume,  ever  read 
or  heard  of,  that  far-famed  work,  the  "  Practical  Rules"  of 
their  late  fellow-colonist,  and  fellow-planter.  Dr.  Collins !  I 
beseech  the  reader,  if  only  for  curiosity's  sake,  to  collate  with 
this  assertion  of  the  St.  Vincent's   Council  and   Assembly, 

by  which  Slave  Labour  is  enforced.  201 

some  of  the  passages  I  have  already  cited  from  that  work  ;* 
and  among  them  the  following  extract. 

"  The  consequence  of  which  (i.  e.  of  the  gang  being  badly 
"  assorted  in  respect  of  strength)  is  that  either  the  weaker 
"  negroes  must  retard  the  stronger  ones,  or  your  drivers,  in- 
"  sensible  of  the  cause  of  their  backwardness,  or  not  weighing 
"  it  properly,  will  incessantly  urge  them,  either  with  stripes  or 
"  threats,  to  keep  up  with  the  others,  by  which  means  they  are 
**  overwrought,  and  compelled  to  resort  to  the  sick-house." 

"  Incessantly  urging  them  with  stripes !"  visionary  and  pre- 
posterous idea  !  cruel  and  audacious  calumny  on  a  system 
which  the  author  was  himself  engaged  in,  and  which  he  in- 
sidiously affected  to  extenuate  !  Why  Dr.  Collins,  you  well 
knew  that  the  drivers  never  did,  or  ever  could  give  them  a 
a  stripe  when  at  their  work  at  all.  It  is  solemnly  asserted  by 
the  honourable  legislators  of  St.  Vincent,  the  very  island  in 
which  you  lived  thirty  years,  that  the  infliction  of  a  single 
stroke  by  the  driver's  authority,  is  a  thing  that  "  never  did,  and 
"  never  could  happen."  Such  a  practice  never  was  heard  of  by 
any  planter  of  that  island  ;  —  never  entered  into  the  contem- 
plation of  its  lawgivers,  as  a  possible  case,  against  which  they 
had  to  provide  ! 

But  Dr.  Collins's  strange  libels  on  the  system  he  had  been 
so  long  engaged  in,  went  still  further.  "  Sorry  am  I  to  say 
*'  (he  tells  us  in  another  place)  that  by  much  too  frequent 
"  use  hath  been  made  of  this  instrument,"  (the  cart-whip) 
"  and  that  it  is  often  employed  to  a  degree  which,  by  inducing 
"  a  callosity  of  the  parts,  destroys  their  sensibility,  and  ren- 
"  ders  its  further  application  of  little  avail.  It  is  not  unusual 
"  to  arm  the  negro  drivers  with  it,  and  to  leave  the  use  of  it  to 
"  their  discretion  :  of  course  it  is  administered,  neither  ivith  im- 
"  partiality,  nor  judgment ;  for  it  is  generally  bestowed  with 
"  rigour  on  the  weakest  negroes  of  the  gang,  and  on  those  who 
"  are  so  unfortunate  as  not  to  be  in  favour  with  this  sub-despot : 
"  and  that  too  frequently  on  any  part  of  the  naked  body,f  or  the 
"  head,  whilst  the  more  able  negroes,  who  sometimes  deserve 
"  it,  escape  with  impunity.     Now  as  this  cannot  easily  be 

*  Supra,  p.  39  &  98.  f  See  supra,  p.  196. 

202  Of  the  cruel  and  pernicious  Means 

"  prevented  while  the  whip  remains  in  such  hands,  I  would 
"  propose  to  banish  it  entirely  from  the  field,  and  to  allow 
"  the  driver  to  carry  thither  only  a  small  stick  or  switch,  and 
"  that  rather  as  an  ensign  of  authority  than  as  an  instrument 
"  of  correction,  as  I  am  informed  hath  been  practised  on  some 
"  estates  in  Barbadoes."* 

I  beg  the  reader  to  observe  that  this  long  experienced 
planter  of  St.  Vincent,  was  obliged  to  resort  to  another  colony 
for  even  a  hearsay  example  of  any  exception  to  a  practice  which 
the  legislators  of  St.  Vincent  have  the  superlative  confidence 
to  represent  as  one  that  could  not  enter  into  their  contem- 
plation, because  it  never  existed  ! 

That  he  was  misinformed,  even  as  to  the  supposed  excep- 
tion, will  not  be  doubted,  when  I  have  added  the  further 
evidence  on  this  subject,  which  we  are  furnished  with  on  no 
less  authority  than  that  of  the  Council  of  Barbadoes  itself,  in 
the  report  before  cited,  dated  the  22nd  July,  1823,  and  pub- 
lished by  their  agent  in  this  country. 

That  honourable  body,  and  the  witnesses  examined  by 
them,  were  certainly  desirous  enough  of  denying  every  prac- 
tice repugnant  to  the  feelings  of  the  British  people,  that  could, 
with  any  colour  of  probability,  be  denied.  Among  other 
points,  the  practice  of  driving,  was  one  they  much  laboured 
to  extenuate  :  and  at  no  small  expence  of  truth ;  but  not  hav- 
ing the  nerves  of  their  St.  Vincent  neighbours,  they  did  not 
venture  to  deny  the  driver's  power  of  whipping;  still  less  to 
speak  of  it  as  a  thing  unknown,  and  beyond  the  range  of 
their  imagination.  They  thought  it  enough  to  assert  that 
the  power  extended  only  to  a  certain  number  of  lashes  at  a 

For  this  purpose,  Foster  Clarke,  Esq.  one  of  their  witnesses, 
deposed  as  follows  :  — "  The  overseers  of  the  field-work,  or  as 
"  they  are  often  called  dri\ers,  are  permitted  at  no  time  to  give 
"  a  negro  more  than  six  stripes  ivith  a  cat.  If  the  obstinacy  and 
"  aiiru/i/  conduct  of  any  negro  requires  a  greater  punishment,  he 
*'  is  reported  to  the  manager.'"-\ 

*  Practical  Rules,  201-2. 

t  Report  of  the  Barbadoes  Council,  &c.  of  July  22,  1823.      Printed  in 
Loudon,  1824,  p.  110. 

h}f  which  Slave  Labour  is  enforced.  203 

William  Sharp,  Esq.,  another  witness,  is  thus  reported  to 
the  same  effect.  "  Saith,  that  the  driver  is  restrained  in  his 
"  authoritij.  He  is  not  allowed  to  iirftict  more  than  six  stripes  ;  if' 
"  greater  punishment  is  necessary/,  the  ojjhider  is  reported  to  the 
"  manager.''* 

Strange  extenuation  this,  supposing  it  to  be  true  !  Only 
six  stripes  at  a  time  in  the  use  of  the  driving  whip  on  human 
beings  !  !  !  Why  if  a  carman  or  ploughman  were  to  give  as 
many  to  his  horses  for  every  halt,  or  bad  movement,  every 
spectator  would  exclaim  against  his  barbarity,  and  be  ready, 
perhaps,  to  take  him  before  a  magistrate  for  an  offence  against 
Mr.  Martin's  Act. 

But  that  to  which  I  would  beseech  the  particular  attention 
of  my  readers,  is  the  astonishing  contrast  between  these  de- 
fensive representations  of  the  general  practice  in  Barbadoes, 
and  the  cotemporary  statements  from  the  council  and  assembly 
of  the  neighbouring  island  of  St.  Vincent ;  and  from  that 
champion  of  all  the  colonies,  who  stoutly  affirms  "  that  the 
"  driver  dares  not  use  a  whip  to  any  one,  unless  lie  is  commanded." 
The  legislature  or  people  of  Barbadoes,  among  others,  lauded 
and  paid  him  for  that  bold  perversion  of  truth,  while  the 
cotemporary  report  of  their  own  council  thus  clearly  proved 
it  to  be  such  ! 

To  be  sure  the  West  Indians,  if  not  "  extremely  unfortu- 
nate," as  the  St.  Vincent  paper  tells  us,  "  in  their  terms"  must 
have  been  so  in  their  friends,  and  in  the  apologists  of  their 
own  body  ;  for  we  have  also  seen  what  Mr.  De  la  Becbe  has 
more  recently  published  on  this  subject;  availing  himself,  no 
doubt  maliciously,  like  their  enemies,  of  this  unlucky  mis- 
nomer, to  persuade  the  British  public  that  the  drivers  really 
do  drive. 

"  Then  it  is,"  says  he  (viz.  in  the  morning  muster),  "  that 
"  the  negroes  suffer  xno^i  from  the  driver's  whip, J'ur  he  unfor- 
"  tunatehj  can,  upon  his  own  authority,  injlict  punishment  on 
''  those  tvho  are  not  in  time,  thus  makitig  him  the  judge  of  an 
"  excuse  that  might  appear  quite  valid  to  the  manager. "f   Strange 

Iljid.  p.  1 IG.  t  See  the  quotation  more  at  large,  supra,  98. 

204  Of  the  cruel  and  pernicious  Means 

and  suicidal  calumniator  of  a  system  he  is  himself  engaged 
in  !  What  more  could  he  have  said  if  he  had  been  called  as 
a  witness  by  the  anti-slavery  party  expressly  to  discredit  and 
disgrace  the  distinguished  M'Queen,  and  the  honourable  St. 
Vincent  legislators  ? 

Let  me  quote,  however,  another  passage  from  the  same 
recent  authority.  "  With  few  exceptions,  the  drivers  on  Ja- 
"  maica  estates  carry  either  whips  or  cats  :  on  some  they  are 
"  little  used,  but  I  am  afraid  thei/  are  not  alwai/s  mere  symbols 
"  oj  authority,  &c.  On  estates  where  the  whip  is  permitted 
"  as  a  stimulus  to  labour,  the  driver  stands  near  the  negroes 
"  when  at  work,  and  has  the  power  of  inflicting  punishment  at 
"  his  oivn  discretion  upon  those  who  may  appear  to  him  to  be 
"  idle ;  a  power,  as  may  easily  be  imagined,  liable  to  much 
"  abuse,  and  one  which  should  be  abolished ;  it  being  no 
"  more  than  common  justice  that  enquiry  should  be  instituted 
"  previous  to  punishment,  setting  aside  the  revolting  idea  of 
"  impelling  human  beings  to  their  labour  by  the  whip."* 

Another  experienced  planter,  Mr.  Stewart  of  Jamaica,  in  a 
work  that  issued  from  the  press  in  the  same  year  (1823)  with 
the  St.  Vincent's  legislative  address,  thus  writes :  "  However 
"  averse  a  proprietor  may  be  to  the  too  free  use  of  the  whip, 
"  abuses  will  prevail  while  it  is  suffeped  to  be  used  at  all. 
**  Even  an  overseer  cannot,  if  he  was  so  disposed,  effectually 
•*  controul  the  unjust  and  arbitrary  exercise  of  it  by  the 
"  drivers,  zvho  are  too  generally  hard  hearted  and  partial  in 
'*  their  distributions  of  the  minor  punishments  they  are  autho- 
"  rised  to  inflict.  A  driver  may  maltreat  and  persecute  in  a 
"  petty  way  the  unfriended  slave  against  whom  he  has  a  grudge, 
"  while  he  connives  at  the  faults  of  those  whom  he  wishes  to 
"  favour."f  The  same  writer,  speaking  of  the  sensations  of  a 
newly  arrived  plantation  assistant,  called  a  bookkeeper,  from 
Europe,  says :  "  He  finds  himself  placed  in  a  line  of  life,  where 
*'  to  his  first  conception  every  thing  wears  the  appearance  of 
*'  barbarity  and  slavish  oppression.     He  sees  the  slaves  as- 

*  Notes,  &c.  by  Mr.  De  la  Beche,  p.  20.  21. 

f  "  View  of  the  past  and  present  state  of  the  Island  of  Jamaica,  by  Mr. 
Stewart."     Edinburgh,  1823.    App.  346. 

hy  xohkh  Slave  Labour  in  enforced.  205 

"  senibled  in  gangs  in  the  fields,  and  kept  to  their  work  hy  the 
"  terror  of  the  whips  borne  by  black  drivers,  certainly  not  the 
"  most  gentle  of  human  kind,"  &c.* 

Had  Mr.  Stewart  meant  to  expose  in  all  points  the  false- 
hood of  the  cotemporary  statements  of  the  St.  Vincent's  Coun- 
cil and  Assembly,  how  could  he  have  done  it  more  effectually? 
The  much-extolled  drivers  ''  chosen  for  distinguished  humanity" 
are  not  only,  we  find,  authorized  to  whip  at  their  discretion, 
but  too  generally  abuse  their  power.  They  are  hard-hearted, 
as  well  as  partial  and  unjust.  And  who  can  doubt  that  such 
must  be  the  ordinary  effect  of  an  office,  the  daily  and  hourly 
business  of  which  is  the  inflicting  pain  on  their  fellow-crea- 
tures? The  discerning  reader  could  hardly  have  overlooked 
the  anxiety  of  the  honourable  St.  Vincent's  legislators,  to  var- 
nish the  characters  of  their  drivers,  in  connection  with  state- 
ments, which  if  true,  made  their  humanity  of  no  account. 

Should  I  be  supposed  to  pay  more  attention  than  is  due  to 
this  report,  considering  the  numerous  impostures  of  the  same 
kind  that  I  have  the  painful  duty  to  expose,  let  me  remark, 
that  it  was  a  public  document  highly  extolled  in  the  colonial 
circles  here ;  though  I  can  truly  say  that  the  passage  cited  does 
not  exceed  in  misrepresentation  its  account  of  the  system  in 
many  other  parts  not  within  the  scope  of  this  work.  It  was  not 

*  Ibid.  p.  192. 

In  quoting  this  writer  as  an  opponent,  I  should  be  unjust  not  to  add,  that 
he  is  a  far  more  candid  one  than  almost  any  other  whose  works  I  have  cited, 
with  the  exception  of  Mr.  De  la  Beclie  and  Dr.  Collins ;  and  that  though 
his  habits  as  a  planter,  and  his  connections  with  West  Indians,  have  led  him 
into  great  partiality  (unconsciously  perhaps)  in  many  parts  of  his  work,  his 
intentions,  as  I  believe,  were  good.  That  I  am  nevertheless  entitled  to  use 
his  authority  as  a  partizan  of  the  colonies  in  this  controversy  is  manifest 
from  the  general  spirit  of  his  work ;  and  the  following  extracts  may  suffice  to 
prove  it.  "  Such  improvements  in  the  slave-laws,  as  can  with  perfect  safety 
"  be  made  at  the  present  moment,  should  be  carried  into  effect,  not  by  the 
"  Imperial  Parliament,  as  has  been  strongly  recommended,  but  by  the  co- 
"  lonial  legislators  to  whom  belongs  the  right  of  regulating  all  matters  con- 
"  nected  with  their  internal  policy,"  &c.  "  Tliose  who  would  persuade  the 
"  British  Parliament  to  legislate  for  the  colonies  may  be  very  well  meanino- 
"  people,  but  unquestionably  they  are  not  aware  of  the  consequences  of 
"  what  they  recommend." — p.  247. 

206  Of  the  cruel  and  pernicious  Means 

only  boasted  of  as  a  most  powerful  and  satisfactory  defence  of 
the  common  cause  ;  but  some  respectable  West  India  mer- 
chants and  proprietors  (themselves  no  doubt  deceived,  as  too 
many  of  them  unfortunately  are,  in  respect  of  the  real  case) 
sent  copies  of  it  to  anti-slavery  friends,  whom  they  good- 
naturedly  hoped  to  convert  by  it.  I  myself  had  the  honour 
of  such  a  present,  from  gentlemen  of  whose  good  intentions 
I  am  almost  as  sure,  as  I  am  of  the  utter  insincerity  and 
falsehood  of  the  composition  they  so  much  valued.  Let  me 
then  in  return  direct  their  attention  further,  both  to  the  ex- 
treme ai'tfulness,  and  manifest  falsehood  of  its  contents. 

"  There  is  no  party  or  individual,"  the  report  adds,  "  in 
*'  the  colony,  who  is  not  willing  to  take  from  the  hands  of  the 
"  driver,  that  tvhich  he  is  only  alloiced  to  carry  as  a  mark  of  his 
"  authority.  But  the  time  and  the  mode  must  be  left  to  those 
"  only  who  know  how  difficult ;  nay,  how  dangerous,  it  is  to 
"  make  the  most  immaterial  alteration  in  a  system  built  upon 
"  the  unsolid  foundation  of  influence  and  opinion.  The  time 
"  is  still  far  distant  %vhen  it  would  be  either  prudent  or  safe  to 
"  hint  to  this  class  of  persons,  that  they  are  no  longer  amenable 
"  to  corporal  punishment,  restrained  and  guarded  even  as  the 
"  application  of  it  noiu  is.''* 

Surely  these  gentlemen  must  estimate  very  meanly  the 
understandings  of  the  people  of  England,  when  they  hope  to 
delude  them  by  flimsy  and  contradictory  pretences  like  these ! 
"  A  mark  of  his  authoriti/ F'  Why,  if  they  tell  truth,  the 
driver  has  no  authority  to  mark.  He  is  a  mere  inspector  and 
reporter.  If  the  sight  of  the  whip  were  necessary  to  remind 
the  poor  slaves  of  their  liability  to  corporal  punishment,  it 
would  suffice  as  well  for  that  purpose  to  plant  it  before  them 
in  the  field,  as  to  put  it  in  the  driver's  hand.  Nay,  much 
better  ;  for  as  the  driver's  station  is  in  the  rear,  it  must  be  in 
general  unseen  by  them  during  their  work. 

The  same  idle  pretence  has  elsewhere  taken  a  different,  and 
perhaps  still  more  inconsistent  turn,  though  on  what  may 
possibly  be  supposed  better  authority.  Mr.  Dwarris  in  his 
pamphlet,  called  "  The  West  India  Question,"  says,  "  the  cart- 

■    r.  4G,  7. 

btj  which  Slave  Laboio^  is  enforced.  207 

"  whip,  either  as  an  instrument  of  punishment,  or  as  a  sym- 
*'  bol  of  authority,  has  grown  out  of  use.  The  cat-o'nine-tails 
"  which  is  used  in  the  British  army,  is  substituted  for  it."* 

Where  and  when  was  this  substitution,  and  this  disuse  ? 
and  upon  what  evidence  does  this  public  functionary  hazard 
such  assertions?  Certainly  he  cannot  speak  from  his  own 
experience  or  observation ;  for  he  closed  his  circuit  through 
the  different  islands  as  a  commissioner  in  January,  1824,'|' 
and  has  not,  as  I  understand,  since  visited  the  West  Indies ; 
and  it  appears  undeniably  from  the  authorities  I  have  quoted, 
among  others  from  the  reluctant,  but  candid  admissions  of 
Mr.  De  laBeche,  a  brother  planter  of  the  same  island,  Jamaica, 
who  was  there  till  the  end  of  1824,  and  published  here  in 
1 825,  that  the  use  of  the  cart- whip,  not  as  a  sijmbol  merely,  but 
as  "  a  stimulus  to  labour"  then  continued  to  be  "  general 
"  among  the  planters  of  that  colony.  With  very  few  excep- 
"  tio/is,  the  drivers  on  Jamaica  estates,  carry  either  whips  or 
**  cats;  on  some  they  are  little  used,"  &c.;|: 

Is  still  more  recent  evidence  desired  ?  A  Jamaica  news- 
paper, the  Watchman,  of  December  oth,  1829,  nearly  the 
latest  date  of  any  accounts  from  that  island,  is  this  moment 
laid  on  my  table,  while  I  am  correcting  the  proof  of  the  pre- 
sent sheet  for  press  ;  and  I  extract  from  it  the  following  para- 
graph.— "  That  the  whip  is  still  in  use  on  some  estates  in 
"  Jamaica,  we  fear  is  but  too  true  ;  but  on  the  other  hand, 
"  we  are  glad  to  say  that  some  estates  have  abolished  the 
"  system  of  corporal  punishment  altogether ;  and  these  plant- 
"  ations,  we  are  informed,  yield  as  fair  returns  to  the  pro- 
"  prietors  as  when  conducted  on  the  old  execrable  system. 
"  Some  of  the  estates  to  which  we  refer  are  those  of  Mr.  Wild- 
"  man  and  Mr.  De  la  Beche.'"  No  others  are  specified ;  and 
those  who  know  the  pre-eminent  characters  in  point  of  hu- 
manity of  both  these  proprietors,  will  be  at  no  loss  to  conjec- 
ture the  cause.  They  had  both  within  a  few  years  visited 
Jamaica,  for  the  sake  of  witnessing  and  improving  the  condi- 
tion of  their  slaves. 

«  P.  16.  +  Tliii-d  Report,  94. 

X  Notes,  &c.  p.  20.     And  see  the  quotation,  supra,  p.  203,  4. 

208  Of  the  cruel  and  pernicious  Means 

As  to  the  substitution  of  the  cat  for  the  whip,  Mr.  Dwarris 
doubtless  had  never  read  the  debates  in  the  Jamaica  Assem- 
bly, in  December,  1826,  though  they  were  republished  in 
several  of  our  own  newspapers,*  or  he  would  have  known,  that 
this  very  substitution,  which  he  represents  as  actually  made, 
in  terms  of  universal  import,  was  then  proposed  and  power- 
fully advocated  to  no  purpose;  being  rejected  by  a  majority 
of  28  to  12,  in  that  most  respectable  of  West  India  assem- 

Mr.  Dwarris,  like  most  of  his  fellow-labourers,  takes  care 
in  mentioning  the  cat-o'nine-tails,  to  tell  us  "  that  it  is  used 
"  in  the  British  army."  If  he  could  add,  that  it  is  used  on 
the  backs  of  innocent  soldiers,  and  of  their  wives  and  daughters 
too,  at  the  discretion  of  the  drummers,  and  to  quicken  the 
privates  in  working  for  the  profit  of  the  officers,  by  whom 
alone  its  use  could  be  controuled,  the  two  cases  would  have 
some  similarity ;  but,  otherwise,  the  precedent  of  our  flog- 
ging convicted  thieves  in  our  gaol-yards,  or  at  the  cart's-tail, 
would  have  been  equally  to  his  purpose. 

The  allusion,  however,  when  coming  from  the  pen  of  this 
planter-commissioner,  is  not  without  its  use.  The  idle  and 
hackneyed  palliation  manifests  in  what  spirit  he  reports,  and 
writes.  The  stress  laid  on  the  alleged  substitution,  will  also 
enable  those  who  reason  as  well  as  read,  to  estimate  the  sin- 
cerity of  the  pretence,  that  the  carrying  the  whip  in  the  field 
is  merely  symbolical,  and  meant  only  to  operate  on  the  ima- 
gination of  the  slaves.  If  so,  where  would  be  the  boasted  im- 
provement ?  As  a  symbol,  the  cart-whip  would  be  not  less 
harmless,  and  from  long-formed  associations  of  ideas,  far 
more  efficacious,  than  the  cat.  Aye,  and  in  its  true  use  more 
merciful ;  for  the  report  of  the  whip  in  the  rear  often  suffices 
without  its  smart ;  whereas  the  cat  can  admonish  only  by  its 
actual  inflictions. 

My  readers  will  probably  think  am  mis-spending  their  time 
by  these  comments,  after  citing  so  much  direct  and  decisive 
evidence  as  to  the  actual  and  still  existing  practice;  especially 
as  I  have  shewn  them,'  that  the  pretences  I  am  combating 

*  Tliey  are  given  from  the  Jamaica  newspapers  in  the  Anti-Slavery  Re- 
porter, No.  21. 

hy  which  Slave  Labour  is  enforced.  209 

were  advanced  with  equal  confidence  forty  years  ago.  But 
strong  facts  require  strong  proofs ;  and  it  is,  I  feel,  a  fact 
requiring  no  ordinary  force  of  evidence,  that  the  practice  is  of 
the  utmost  notoriety  throughout  the  British  West  Indies,  while 
thus  publicly  denied  in  England,  by  the  respectable  authorities 
I  have  cited  ;  especially  that  of  the  St.  Vincent's  Council  and 
Assembly.  I  will  not,  therefore,  abstain  from  adducing  some 
further  cotemporary  evidence,  given  by  the  most  zealous 
partizans  and  accredited  advocates  of  the  sugar-colonies  at 

And  first,  that  of  Alexander  M'Donnell,  Esq.  secretary  to 
the  committee  of  the  inhabitants  of  Demarara,  an  author,  from 
his  talents,  as  well  as  from  the  official  character  in  which  he 
writes,  of  no  small  account.  In  his  work,  entitled  "  Consi- 
deratiotis  on  Negro  Slavery,"  8cc.  t  this  gentleman  notices, 
among  other  topics,  the  driving  method  of  coercion  ;  and  does 
he  countenance  his  fellow-labourer  of  the  same  colony,  Mr. 
McQueen,  or  the  St.  Vincent  legislators,  or  Mr.  Dwarris,  by 
denying  its  existence  ?  So  much  the  contrary,  that  he  em- 
ploys his  most  strenuous  efforts  to  reconcile  the  acknowledged 
fact  of  its  continuance,  with  that  pretence,  to  support  which 
is  the  main  drift  of  his  work,  namely,  that  slavery  is  in  a 
state  of  great  and  progressive  improvement. 

The  whole  of  his  ninth  chapter  is  systematically  and  elabo- 
rately devoted  to  that  end.  He  distinguishes  for  the  purpose 
four  stages  in  the  supposed  progress  of  amelioration,  or  rather 
four  distinct  states  of  slavery;  for  as  to  the  first,  he  admits 
it  to  be  the  extremity  of  unmitigated  oppression,  that  which 
exists  in  colonies  still  supplied  by  the  slave  trade.  The  se- 
cond, he  says,  "  presents  a  very  great  amelioration,  as  the 
"  supply  by  traffic  is  stopped,  and  the  slaves  have  to  be  reared, 
"  instead  of  being  purchased ;"  from  which  he  plausibly, 
however  untruly,  infers  a  great  improvement  in  their 
treatment.  This,  which  upon  his  own  premises  is  the  first 
advance  in  their  condition,  he  maintains  to  have  already 
taken  place.  The  third  state,  is  the  siibstitutioti  of  task 
work  for  the  driving  whip;  and  to  this   he    confesses,  that 

*  See  supra,  p.  25. 
VOL.   11.  P 

210  Of  the  cruel  ami  pernicious  Means 

they  have  not  yet  arrived  ;  and  attempts  to  apologize  for 
it,  on  the  very  ingenious  pretext,  that  reformation  is  rendered 
unsafe  by  the  only  means  which  can  possibly  produce  it ; 
the  interposition  of  the  mother  country. 

But  let  me  give  his  own  words.  "  Seventeen  years  have 
"  not  elapsed  since  the  abolition  of  the  slave  trade  ;  and  so 
"  great  has  been  the  improvement,  that  I  regard  the  negroes 
"  in  the  West  Indies  at  nearly  at  the  end  of  what  I  have  termed 
*'  the  second  state  of  slavery.  They  can  participate  in  the 
*'  full  enjoyment  of  physical  comforts." — (Would  to  God  that 
this  were  true !  The  shocking  mortality  in  that  very  colony  of 
all  the  inhabitants  of  which  this  gentleman  is  the  official 
organ  too  clearly  attests  the  contrary.)  "  They,  however," 
he  adds,  "are  not  yet  so  far  advanced  as  to  perform  their  labour 
"  without  the  presence  of  a  coercing  power  :  this  desirable  object 
"  has  been  unavoidably  delayed,  from  an  unfortunate  notion 
"  which  has  taken  possession  of  their  minds,  that  it  is  con- 
"  trary  to  the  wish  of  those  in  authority  in  this  country,  that 
"  they  should  work  at  all.  Could  this  fatal  delusion  be  re- 
"  moved,  together  with  the  injurious  effects  resulting  from 
"  intemperate  discussion,  I  confidently  predict,  that  in  a  very 
"  short  time  they  would  attain  the  third  state,"  i.  e.  an  exemp- 
tion from  driving  ;  or  to  use  the  author's  own  words,  "  whejt 
"  the  whip  that  most  repulsive  characteristic  of  slavery  no  longer 
"  is  used  as  a  stimulus  to  labour.'^' 

I  will  not  digress  so  far  as  would  be  necessary  to  illustrate 
the  modesty  of  this  excuse  for  the  continuance  of  driving  by 
this  organ  of  the  committee  of  all  the  inhabitants  of  Demarara. 
I  will  only  ask,  if  the  negroes  there,  are  under  the  influence 
of  the  delusion  stated,  (which  I  believe  to  be  just  as  true  as 
the  boldest  of  the  extravagant  fictions  I  am  refuting,)  who 
inspired  them  with  it  ?  who,  but  those  who  told  them  every 
day  in  their  resolutions,  published  in  every  newspaper  of  the 
colony,  and  fatally  in  one  instance  led  them  to  believe,  that 
the  mitioations  of  their  state  recommended  by  the  British 
Government  actually  meant  emancipation  ? 

If,  indeed,  the  views  of  this  writer  are  correct,  the  slaves 

See  the  wliole  of  Cliapter  IX.,  and  jiartirularly  p.  204  fo  207 

(n/ whkh  Slave  Labour  is  enforced.  211 

might  have  lield  the  notion  he  ascribes  to  them,  without  mis- 
take ;  for  he  reasons  elaborately  to  prove,  that  the  Trinidad 
order,  which  forbids  the  use  of  the  whip  for  "  coercing  labour," 
virtually  amounts  to  emancipation.  He  deduces  from  what 
he  calls  a  strict  analysis  of  the  order,  the  conclusion,  that 
"  the  tvhip  is  not  to  be  used  at  any  time  for  the  purpose  of  coercing 
"  the  negroes  to  work ;  and  if  such,"  he  adds,  "  were  its  in- 
**  tention,  the  result  must  be  considered  as  emancipation  at 
"  once.'"  It  is  true,  he  afterwards  admits,  that  this  con- 
struction is  not  consistent  with  the  spirit  of  the  order ;  and 
that  "  it  was  intended  merely  to  express,  that  the  whip  was 
"  not  to  be  used  on  the  spot  as  an  instrument  of  compelling 
"  the  negroes  by  its  exhibition  to  perform  the  labour."  But 
is  he  content  with  the  regulation  even  in  that  qualified  sense  ? 
By  no  means  ;  not  even  as  it  respects  the  women!  Adopting 
this  interpretation,  he  maintains  still  the  impracticability  of 
reconciling  a  disuse  of  the  driving-whip,  with  the  "  con- 
"  tinuance  of  the  present  system,  as  society  is  constituted  in 
"  the  West  Indies,"  and  this  I  freely  admit  to  him ;  for  the 
present  system,  as  I  have  shewn,  is  to  exact  from  the  unfortu- 
nate slaves  of  both  sexes,  a  most  cruel  and  destructive  excess 
of  labour,  such  as  the  self-preservatory  resistance  of  oppressed 
nature  will  not  permit  them  to  yield,  except  to  the  irresistible 
force  of  brutal  coercion . 

*'  This  compulsion,"  he  adds,  "  is  the  characteristic  dis- 
"  tinction,  the  unavoidable  attendant,  and  beyond  all  coni- 
^  parison  the  most  repulsive  feature  of  slavery.  Deeply,  in- 
"  deed,  should  I  rejoice  if  nuj  experience  would  warrant  me  in  ad- 
"  mitting,  that  it  could  as  yet  be  dispensed  with.'' 

When  Mr.  M'Donnell  represents  this  driving  method,  as 
''  the  characteristic  distinction,  and  the  unavoidable  attendant 
"  of  slavery,"  he  must  be  ignorant,  or  suppose  his  readers  to 
be  so,  of  what  slavery  was,  and  is,  in  antient  and  modern  Eu- 
rope, in  Africa,  and  in  the  East,  where  driving  was  never 
known,*  and  must  have  strangely  forgot  what  the  practice  is 
in  many  cases,  even  in  those  sugar  colonies  of  which  he  was 

Soo  my  forinff  voUinu-,  [).4G.,  and  in  various  othor  places. 
H    2 

212  Of  t lie  cruel  ami  pernicious  Means 

the  oflficial  organ;  for  if  negroes  will  not  work  without  a  driver 
behind  them,  how  are  their  separate  labours  performed,  when 
they  are  dispersed  for  the  picking  of  grass,  or  when  they  are 
employed  at  the  mill  and  copper-holes,  and  in  the  boiling- 
house  ? 

They  are  driven  only  when  they  are  employed  in  gang ; 
for  then  only  can  the  presence  of  one  or  two  whips  impel  a 
numerous  body.  To  assign  a  driver  to  every  isolated  indi- 
vidual^ or  to  a  few  labourers  in  each  detached  operation  at 
the  works,  would  be  to  sacrifice  labour  itself  to  the  means  of 
its  compulsion.  This  "characteristic,"  therefore,  "  of  slaverj/'' 
is  lost,  this  "  unavoidable  attendant"  of  it,  is  avoided,  even 
by  the  sugar-planter  himself,  whenever  his  own  interest  or 
convenience  demand  the  laying  it  aside.  There  is  no  present 
impending  whip  to  operate  "  in  terrorem"  in  some  of  the  most 
essential  parts  of  the  business  of  the  plantation ;  and  yet  that 
business  is  done ;  and  yet  the  planters  would  persuade  us, 
that  without  a  present  whip  nothing  can  be  done  in  the 

That  so  much  would  not  be  done  without  it  I  am  far  indeed 
from  meaning  to  deny.  This  is  the  true  and  only  cause  of 
its  being  so  tenaciously  retained. 

Here  let  me  pause,  and  request  the  reader's  attention  to  the 
general  character  of  this  controversy  as  it  is  maintained  on 
the  part  of  the  colonies.  There  is  no  part  of  their  system,  the 
reader  now  I  trust  sees,  however  flagrant  and  notorious,  that 
they  scruple  to  deny  the  existence  of,  whenever  it  suits  their 
convenience.  Has  it  been  decisively  proved  against  them, 
has  it  been  publicly  confessed  by  their  own  partizans  and 
witnesses,  and  by  their  legislative  bodies,  even  in  cotemporary 
reports  ?  their  intrepid  contempt  of  truth  is  not  at  all  im- 
paired :  their  next  controversial  piece  boldly  re-asserts  the 
same  convicted  and  repudiated  falsehoods  ;  and  not  only  so, 
but  arraigns  the  veracity  and  integrity  of  those  who  have 
presumed  to  quote  against  them  their  own  admissions. 

They  add,  as  I  have  before  observed,  the  fraudulent  artifice 
of  leaving  unnoticed  the  quotations  themselves.  In  my  re- 
marks on  this  driving  method  in  my  former  volume,  and  in 
earlier  publications,  I  cited  some  of  the  very  authorities  here 
presented  to  my  readers,  especially  that  of  Dr.  Collins;  and 

hij  wlikh  S/ace  Labour  is  enj'oiced.  213 

to  the  credit  of  none  of  them  has  any  of  my  op|jonents  ven- 
tured ever  to  object.  Yet  that  broad  denial  of  the  driver's 
authority,  and  of  the  whole  practice  of  driving  which  I  have 
cited  from  Mr.  M'Queen,  is  ushered  in  by  him  with  the  fol- 
lowing exclamation,  "  When  will  the  anti-colonial  furty  tell 
"  the  truth,  the  ichole  truth,  and  nothing  hut  the  truth  I  Never 
"  while  they  can  substitute  falsehood  or  misrepresentation  for  it. 
And  proceeding  to  quote  a  statement  that  "  the  slaves  whe- 
"  ther  male  or  female  are  driven  to  hard  labour  by  the  im- 
**  pulse  of  the  cart-whip;"  he  subjoins,  "  this  is  either  tvholli/ 
"false  or  the  facts  are  misrepresented.  The  slaves  are  not  driven 
**  to  their  work,"  Sfc.  as  in  my  former  quotation. 

In  what  other  case  were  men  ever  heard  with  patience,  not 
to  say  with  favour,  after  the  facts  they  solemnly  denied  have 
been  proved  under  their  own  hands,  or  from  their  own  lips  ? 
But  the  case  of  the  poor  slaves  of  the  West  Indies  is  unpa- 
ralleled in  all  its  circumstances.  Their  own  mouths  are  gagged 
by  tremendous  laws,  and  more  tremendous  manners.  Their 
voluntary  advocates,  and  their  witnesses,  are  persecuted  and 
hunted  down  with  calumny  and  clamour ;  and  their  oppres- 
sors are  listened  to  with  a  strange  credulity,  in  spite  of  every 
demonstration  that  any  human  evidence,  their  own  confessions 
included,  can  afford  of  the  truths  they  inconsistently  deny. 
The  gross  impostures  that  are  exposed  and  confessed  to-day 
are  brought  forward  with  as  much  confidence  to-morrow,  as  if 
they  had  never  been  detected  j  and  unhappily  obtain  credit 
anew  on  the  same  exploded  authorities. 

To  undeceive  men  who  are  resolved  to  be  deceived,  is  a 
vain  attempt.  There  is  a  large  part  of  the  upper  and  middle 
circles  of  this  community,  a  formidably  large  one,  to  whose 
eyes  the  light  of  truth  on  these  subjects  is  too  painful  ever 
to  be  admitted.  But  let  me  remind  the  rest  of  my  country- 
men, that  if  they  wilfully  resist  conviction,  when  it  is  pressed 
upon  them  by  evidence  beyond  dispute,  complaisance  for  a 
West  Indian  friend  or  connection,  will  form  no  excuse  with 
Him  who  is  the  Searcher  of  hearts,  and  the  equal  Judge  of  the 
whole  earth.  They  will  not  be  less  guilty  of  that  cruel  op- 
pression which  they  would  not  lend  their  aid  to  terminate,  be- 
cause they  refused   impartially  to  exercise  the  understandings 

214  Of  the  cruel  and  peniiciuiis  Means 

he  has  piven  them  in  distinouishino-  between  truth  and 

Those,  let  me  add,  who  defend  their  conduct  on  premises 
that  they  know  to  be  false,  virtually  admit  that  it  is  not  to  be 
fairly  defended  ;  and,  therefore,  as  I  have  demonstrated,  not 
only  in  respect  of  the  driving  method,  but  many  of  the  es- 
sential points  both  in  the  law  and  practice  of  slavery,  the 
utter  falsehood  of  those  defensive  pretexts  in  which  the  colo- 
nists could  not  be  mistaken,  I  am  entitled  to  maintain  that 
they  are  conscious  of,  and  virtually  confess  the  oppressive  and 
indefensible  nature  of  the  system  in  which  they  are  engaged. 
Those  who  can  conscientiously  side  with  them  must  differ  in 
moral  judgment,  not  only  with  the  accusers,  but  the  accused. 

Section  IV. —  The  cruel  and  pernicioits  nature  and  effects  of 
the  practice  stated  and  proved. 

Having  rescued  this  part  of  the  case  from  bold  misrepre- 
sentation, and  proved  that  the  immoderate  labour  of  the  field- 
negroes  is  still  extorted  by  the  driving-whip  ;  and  not  merely 
by  its  terror,  but  by  its  actual  inflictions,  I  proceed  to  point 
out  some  of  the  pernicious  effects.  These  have  in  part  been 
already  incidentally  noticed  and  proved  ;  but  the  miseries 
resulting  from  a  mode  of  private  despotism  not  more  repulsive 
to  the  feelings  of  Englishmen,  than  remote  from  their  experi- 
ence, demand  a  distinct  and  full  investigation. 

Driving  is  the  most  peculiar  characteristic  of  West  Indian 
slavery  and,  as  I  have  always  held,  the  most  opprobrious  part 
of  the  system.  I  will  here  in  the  first  place,  transcribe  my 
own  earliest  public  strictures  on  the  subject,  rather  than 
give  them  in  a  new  form  of  expression.  It  will  serve  at  least 
to  shew  the  consistency  of  my  present  views  with  those  which 
I  submitted  to  the  public  nearly  eight-and-twenty  years  ago. 
Besides,  in  this  instance,  I  might  fairly  contend,  were  it  ne- 
cessary, that  some  credit  is  due  to  those  long  since  promul- 
gated opinions,  though  I  decline  to  claim  it  for  the  testimony, 
of  an  avowed  and  zealous  adversary  of  the  system.  When 
any  hypothesis,  propounded  and  supported  by  reasoning 
a  priori,  is  found  to  agree  with  the  predicted  result  of  ex- 

bi)  which  Slave  Labour  is  enforced.  215 

peiiments,  not  previously  made,  we  feel  that  its  truth  is  ren- 
dered highly  probable  ;  and  on  the  same  principles  my  views 
of  the  terrible  effects  of  the  driving-whip  might  now  claim 
credit,  for  it  was  upon  them  that  I  foretold  to  the  public 
with  the  utmost  confidence  in  March  1802,  the  indomitable 
resistance  of  the  negroes  of  St.  Domingo  to  the  extremest 
efforts  of  Buonaparte,  at  a  time  when  his  inexorable  purpose 
to  restore  slavery  in  that  island  was  sustained  by  the  then 
gigantic  power  of  France,  unopposed  by  any  foreign  enemy, 
and  devoted  to  that  single  object. 

"  Among  the  various  powerful  feelings,  (I  then  said)  which 
"  will  combine  a  large  community  of  negroes  inured  by  a  ten 
"  years'  experience  to  the  habits  of  freedom,  with  an  aversion 
"  perfectly  irreconcileable  to  their  former  state,  there  is  one 
"  which  claims  particular  attention.  It  is  one  which  will  pro- 
"  bably  occasion  much  obstinacy  in  the  attempt  to  refix  their 
"  fetters  ;  while  it  creates  an  equal  pertinacity  of  resistance 
"  I  mean  that  antipathy  to  their  former  labours  which  has 
"  been  already  so  visible  in  the  negroes  of  St.  Domingo. 
"  Man  is  naturally  indolent,  and  impatient  of  bodily  restraint. 
''  Though  spurred  by  his  hopes  and  fears  into  activity,  and 
"  often  to  the  most  ardent  exertions,  he  is  with  diflaculty  bent 
"  to  the  yoke  of  uniform  and  persevering  labour.  The  sug- 
"  gestions  of  foresight,  however,  are  very  powerful  impulses, 
"  especially  when  seconded  by  habit ;  and  the  great  Author  of 
"  our  nature  has  conferred  on  them  a  mild  as  well  as  a  right- 
*'  ful  dominion.  When  we  bow  to  the  golden  sceptre  of  rea- 
"  son,  obedience  has  many  facilities,  and  its  pains  many  mi- 
"  tigations.  Nature  is  not  thwarted  more  rudely  than  the 
"  rational  purpose  demands ;  and  the  mind,  while  it  urges  on 
"  the  material  frame,  cheers  it  in  return  with  refreshing  and 
"  invigorating  cordials. 

'*  Look  at  the  most  laborious  peasant  in  Europe,  and  if  you 
"  please  the  most  oppressed  :  he  is  toiling,  it  is  true,  from  pain- 
*•  ful  necessity;  but  it  is  a  necessity  of  a  moral  kind,  acting 
"  upon  his  rational  nature  ;  and  from  which  brutal  coercion 
"  differs  as  widely  as  a  nauseous  drench  in  the  mouth  of  an 
"  infant  from  the  medicated  milk  of  its  mother. 

"■  Is  the  impelling  motive  fear  of  want,  or  dread  of  a  master's 

216  Of  the  a  uel  and  pernicious  Means 

"  displeasure  ?  yet  he  sees  on  the  other  hand  the  approbation 
"  and  reward  attainable  by  exertions  whereof  the  degree  is  at 
"  least  for  the  moment  spontaneous.  Self-complacency  al- 
"  leviates  his  toil ;  and  hope  presents  to  his  view  the  hearty 
"  well-earned  meal,  the  evening  fire-side,  and  perhaps  the 
"  gratifications  of  the  husband  or  the  father,  in  promoting  the 
"  well-being  of  those  dearest  to  his  heart.  Is  his  work  fa- 
"  tiguing  ?  he  is  at  liberty  at  least  to  introduce  some  little  va- 
*'  rieties  in  the  modes,  or  breaks  in  the  continuity  of  it,  which 
"  give  him  sensible  relief.  He  can  rest  on  his  spade,  or  stay 
"  the  plow  a  moment  in  the  furrow  ;  can  gaze  at  a  passing 
"  object;  or  stop  a  brother-villager  to  spend  a  brief  interval  in 
"  talk. 

"  To  the  reflecting  mind  these  little  privileges  will  not  ap- 
"  pear  unimportant,  when  compared  with  the  hard  and  cheer- 
"  less  lot  of  the  field-negro.  He  is  not  at  liberty  to  relax  his 
"  tired  muscles,  or  beguile  his  weariness,  either  by  voluntary 
"  pauses  in  labour,  or  by  varying  its  mode  :  he  must  work  on 
"  with  his  fellow-slaves,  let  fatigue  or  satiety  groan  ever  so 
"  much  for  a  moment's  respite,  till  the  driver  allows  a  halt. 

"  But  far  more  deplorable  is  the  want  of  all  those  animat- 
"  ing  hopes,  that  sweeten  the  toil  of  the  European  peasant. 
*'  To  the  negro  slave,  driven  to  his  work,  his  involuntary  ex- 
*'  ertions,  as  they  can  plead  no  merit,  can  promise  in  general 
"  no  reward.  His  meal  will  not  be  more  plentiful,  nor  his  cot- 
"  tage  better  furnished,  by  the  fruits  of  his  utmost  toil.  As 
"  to  his  wife  and  children,  they  can  hardly  be  called  his  own  : 
"  Whether  the  property  of  the  same  or  a  different  owner,  it  is 
"  upon  the  master,  not  himself,  that  their  subsistence  and 
"  well-being  depend. 

"  The  negro,  therefore,  casts  his  hoe  from  no  impulse  but 
"  that  of  fear ;  and  fear  brought  so  closely  and  continually 
"  into  contact  with  its  object,  that  we  can  hardly  allow  it 
"  to  rise  above  brutal  instinct,  and  call  it  natural  foresight, 
"  without  ascribing  to  the  docility  of  the  horse  an  equal 
"  elevation.  The  other  great  and  pleasing  spring  of  human 
"  action,  hope,  is  entirely  cut  oft". 

"  When  these  peculiar  circumstances  are  duly  considered, 
"  the  rooted  aversion  of  the  free  negro  to  his  former  labours 
"  cannot  excite  surprise.     It  is  unnecessary  to  suppose  that 

hij  which  Slave  Labour  is  enforced.  217 

"  they  were  excessive  in  degree,  for  in  their  kind,  they  were 
"  too  irksome  to  be  by  the  most  patient  of  our  race  con- 
"  tentedly  endured,  or  remembered  without  abhorrence. 
"  Neither  is  it  necessary  to  suppose  that  the  impending  lash 
"  was,  in  the  ordinary  routine  of  field-duty,  often  actually 
"  inflicted.  The  human  team  might,  when  well  broken,  move 
"  on  so  regularly,  as  to  make  the  whip  in  the  hand  of  a 
"  humane  driver  little  more  than  a  mere  ensign  of  authority  ; 
"  yet  the  sense  of  perpetual  constraint  and  ever-goading 
"  necessity,  would  be  much  the  same.  The  motive  would 
"  still  be  instant  fear,  though  producing  from  habit  a  re- 
"  gular  and  equable  movement.  It  might  be  admitted, 
**  even  without  danger  to  the  argument  (though  I  am  sorry 
**  to  say  not  without  doing  violence  to  truth,  as  well  as  pro- 
"  bability),  that  this  coarse  actuation  of  the  physical  powers 
"  of  the  human  frame  by  an  external  mind,  interested  in 
"  their  effect,  was  in  general  not  pushed  to  excess,  but  was 
"  an  impulse  as  leniently  and  wisely  regulated  as  that  of 
"  reason,  when  guided  by  the  sympathies  of  the  soul  with 
**  the  same  body  to  which  nature  has  allied  it.  Nay,  we 
"  might  overlook  the  inevitable  frequency  of  such  excesses 
"  as  masters  of  narrow  or  unfeeling  minds  may  be  expected 
"  to  practice ;  and  suppose  that,  in  the  time  or  measure  of 
"  work,  avarice,  armed  with  an  unlimited  power,  never  ex- 
"  acted  too  much,  nor  ever  made  too  little  allowance  for  oc- 
"  casional  or  particular  weakness  ;  in  other  words,  that  while 
"  thrones  in  Europe  too  rarely  find  possessors  fit  to  govern, 
"  the  sceptre  of  a  plantation  falls  into  the  hands  of  none  but 
"  Antonines  and  Trojans ;  still  we  should  see  in  this  manner 
"  of  enforcing  work,  and  in  the  general  circumstances  of 
"  West  Indian  bondage,  enough  to  account  for  a  strong  an- 
"  tipathy  in  the  breast  of  the  enfranchised  negro  to  his  former 
"  state,  and  its  attendant  labours."  * 

Reasoning  upon  these  premises,  I  predicted  an  event  of 
the  French  expedition  against  the  Negroes  of  St.  Domingo, 
which  appeared  at  the  time  not  only  highly  improbable  to 
the  European  public,  but  hardly  within  the  limits  of  pos- 

*  Crisis  of  the  Sugar  Colonies.    Ilatchard,  March,  1802,  p.  38 — 52. 

218  Of  the  cruel  a)id  pernicious  Means 

sibility.  And  yet  how  amply  has  the  prediction  been  veri- 
fied !  All  that  a  colossal  power,  beneath  whose  sway  Europe 
lay  prostrate,  could  do  to  frustrate  it,  was  tried  in  vain.  The 
military  prowess  of  France,  the  consummate  perfidy  of  Buo- 
naparte, his  relentless  vengeance,  his  atrocious  barbarities, 
unexampled  in  any  former  recorded  crimes  of  man,  were  all 
found  to  be  impotent,  when  opposed  in  the  breasts  of  the 
devoted  Haytians  by  their  recollections  of  the  driving-whip. 

It  will  be  perceived,  on  a  comparison  of  the  extract  here 
given  from  the  Crisis  of  the  Sugar  Colonies,  with  the  pas- 
sages cited  from  Mr.  M'Donnell,  that  my  inferences  would 
be  sufficiently  supported  even  by  that  writer's  admissions. 
I  did  not  assume,  as  he  imagines  his  opponents  to  do,  that 
whipping  was  "  incessantly  inflicted."  I  did  not  reason  even 
on  the  incontestible  fact  of  its  great  frequency  ;  but  from  that 
ever  impending  power  and  terror  of  the  whip,  which  he  de- 
fends, and  I'epresents  as  essential  to  the  system ;  and  I  sub- 
mit to  the  feelings,  or  rather  to  the  cool  judgment,  of  my 
readers,  whether  this,  were  it  all,  would  not  be  enough  to 
make  such  a  mode  of  coercion  not  only  degrading  to  human 
nature,  but  in  a  high  degree  cruel  and  pernicious.  I  did  not 
even  assume,  for  the  purpose  of  my  argument  (though  I  as- 
serted the  fact,  as  I  have  ever  done  in  all  my  writings  on 
slavery),  that  the  quantum  of  labour  enforced  either  by  the 
smart  or  terror  of  the  whip  was  excessive ;  but  I  have  now 
demonstrated  that  it  really  is  so,  and  to  the  utmost  possible 
degree  of  relentless,  avaricious  oppression. 

This  fatal  effect  of  such  brutal  coercion  I  have  always  regard- 
ed, as  by  far  the  worst  among  the  manifold  mischiefs  of  which 
the  driving-whip  is  productive.  It  compels  these  devoted 
victims  of  avarice  to  labour  beyond  their  strength  ;  it  is  the 
main  source  of  the  diseases  to  which  they  are  subject ;  it  hur- 
ries a  large  proportion  of  them  prematurely  to  their  graves  ; 
and  by  its  effect  on  the  women,  prevents  that  native  increase, 
which  would  otherwise  repair  all  the  waste  of  life  that  the 
other  severities  of  the  system  occasion,  among  a  race  pre- 
eminently hardy  and  prolific.  Witness  the  often-attested, 
well-proved,  and,  I  believe,  uncontested  fact,  that  where 
driving  is  not  practised,  the  native  slave  population  is  always 
found  to  increase. 

l>ij  rvhkh  Slave  Labour  is  enforced.  219 

But  the  same  oppressive  effect  of  this  mode  of  coercion  is 
the  true  cause  of  that  pertinacity  with  which  tlie  sugar-plan- 
ters maintain  it.  They  admit,  as  we  have  seen,  its  offensive 
character;  they  profess  an  earnest  desire  to  abohsh  it  as  a 
theme  of  reproach  with  those  whom  they  call  their  enemies  ; 
and  yet,  they  obstinately  refuse  its  abolition ;  and  why,  but 
because  they  know,  that  the  same  quantity  of  forced  labour 
cannot  otherwise  be  obtained  ? 

I  have  already  admitted,  that  the  slaves  will  not  work  to 
that  extremity  of  exertion  to  which,  not  the  presence  of  the 
whip  merely,  but  its  painful  inflictions,  coupled  with  its  in- 
cessant terrors  impel  them  ;  but  I  maintain,  that  this  efficacy 
of  the  driving  method,  is  the  worst  of  its  effects.  It  conduces 
to  the  present  profits  of  the  planters  ;  but  is  unspeakably 
cruel  and  destructive  to  the  slaves. 

But  let  us  look  more  distinctly  at  the  iniquities  and  the 
miseries,  directly  and  indirectly,  produced  by  this  practice, 
which  are  greater  than  can  be  easily  described  or  conceived. 

We  have  seen  what  colonial  writers  have  admitted,  as  to 
the  despotism,  and  the  partiality  with  which  the  drivers  are 
apt  to  exercise  their  powers.  "  They  are,"  according  to  Mr. 
Stewart,  "  too  generally  hard-hearted,  and  partial  in  the 
**  minor  punishments  they  are  authorized  to  inflict.  They  may 
"  maltreat  and  persecute  the  unfriended  slave  against  whom 
*'  they  have  a  grudge."*  "  They  have  the  use  of  the  whip," 
says  Dr.  Collins,  "  at  their  discretion,  and  of  course  it  is  ad- 
"  ministered  neither  with  impartiality  nor  judgment ;  it  is 
"  generally  bestowed  with  rigour  on  the  weakest  negroes  of 
"  the  gang,  and  on  those  who  are  so  unfortunate  as  not  to  be 
"  in  favor  with  this  sub-despot."t  "  The  driver,"  says  Mr. 
De  la  Bec/ie,  "  has  the  power  of  inflicting  punishment  at  his 
"  own  discretion  upon  those  who  may  appear  to  him  to  be 
"  idle  ;  a  power  as  may  be  easily  imagined  liable  to  much 
"  abuse."! 

These,  be  it  always  remembered,  are  not  the  statements  of 
anti-slavery  writers,  but  of  planters  and  apologists  of  the  sys- 
tem ;  and  what  appalling  accounts  do  some  of  them  give  of 

Supra,  p.  :204.  f  Supra,  p.  201.  J  Ibid.  204. 

220  Of  the  cruel  and  pernicious  Means 

the  effects  !  "^The  whip,"  says  Dr.  Collins,  "  is  often  em- 
"  ployed  to  a  degree,  which  by  inducing  a  callosity  of  the 
"  parts,  destroys  their  sensibility,  and  renders  its  further  ap- 
"  plication  of  little  avail  ;"*  and  Mr.  Beckford  makes  a  similar 
remark,  "  When  a  negro  becomes  familiarized  to  the  whip,  he 
'*  no  longer  holds  it  in  terror."f 

What,  I  beg  the  compassionate  reader  to  reflect,  must  be 
the  sufferings  of  the  poor  beings  before  it  comes  to  this?  How 
exquisite  must  have  been  the  tortures  endured  by  the  reiterated 
incisions  of  the  tremendous  cart-whip,  the  protracted  miseries 
of  the  wide  excoriations,  the  long  sufferings  of  the  healing 
process,  often  interrupted  in  its  progress  by  new  flagellations, 
and  by  continued  labours  in  the  meantime,  before  the  human 
frame  can  have  so  completely  lost  its  sensibility,  as  no  longer 
to  shrink  from  the  most  torturous  mode  of  punishment  that 
cruelty  has,  perhaps,  ever  inflicted  without  speedy  destruction 
of  life. 

I  do  not  mean,  indeed,  to  ascribe  such  shocking  effects 
wholly,  or  chiefly,  to  the  punishments  of  which  the  drivers 
are  the  arbiters.  I  understand  the  authors  1  have  cited  as 
including  in  the  causes  of  them,  and  for  the  most  part  having 
directly  in  view,  the  more  heavy  flagellations  of  a  penal  kind, 
inflicted  at  the  homestall  by  the  immediate  order  of  the  ma- 
nager or  overseer ;  but  beyond  doubt,  the  far  more  numerous 
inflictions  of  the  drivers  during  the  work,  must  tend  power- 
fully to  the  progressive  insensibility  they  speak  of;  and  what 
is,  perhaps,  of  more  importance,  to  the  moral  insensibility  of  the 
masters,  and  to  the  severe  punishments  they  ordain.  A  slave 
accustomed  to  feel  the  smart  of  the  driver's  whip  for  slackness, 
whether  real  or  imputed,  in  his  ordinary  work,  is  not  thought 
likely  to  be  deterred  from  repeating  offences  deserving  punish- 
ment, by  a  slight  or  moderate  infliction  of  the  same  corporal 
pain  ;  and  women  also  lose  in  such  cases,  the  compassion  due 
to  their  sex,  from  a  knowledge,  that  their  natural  timidity  and 
sensibility  have  been  in  great  measure  worn  off  by  the  harsh 
discipline  of  the  field.  Hence  doubtless,  in  no  small  degree, 
the  extreme  severity  with  which  the  cart-whip  is  so  often  ap- 

*  Ibid. 

f  Remarks  on  the  situation  of  Negroes  in  Jamaica,  p.  40. 

by  %vhuh  Slave  Labour  is  enforced.  221 

plied  by  order  of  the  manager  or  overseer  ;  and  for  offences 
commonly  of  no  greater  magnitude  than  desertion,  or  even 
truantcy  of  a  day's  duration.  Many  managers  think  it  not  too 
much  in  such  cases  to  inflict  a  cart-whipping,  in  its  regular  and 
terrible  form,  on  women  as  well  as  men,  to  the  full  extent  of  the 
thirty-nine  lashes  allowed  by  law,  and  even  to  order,  that 
they  shall  be  severely  applied  ;  which  amounts,  perhaps,  to 
torture  as  intense  as  the  human  frame  is  well  capable  of  feel- 
ing.* Such  masters  might  truly,  however  inadequately, 
allege  in  their  defence,  that  it  would  be  idle  to  order  a  few 
lashes,  when  the  fugitive  or  truant  might  probably  have 
escaped  as  many  from  the  driver's  hands,  even  by  a  day's  ab- 
sence from  the  field.  The  exemplary  effect  would  be  wholly 
lost ;  and  the  offender,  if  long  absent,  would  in  consequence  of 
the  fault,  avoid  not  only  the  pains  of  hard  labour,  but  lessen, 
perhaps,  on  the  whole,  his  or  her  sufferings  by  the  whip. 

Some  of  the  apologists  of  the  driving  method  tell  us,  that 
without  it,  punishments  by  the  master's  order  for  neglect  of 
work,  would  be  more  frequent.  Possibly  they  might  for  some 
time  ;  at  least  if  the  master  attempted  to  exact,  in  the  mode 
of  task-work,  the  same  extent  of  daily  toil  as  the  driving- 
whip  had  before  enforced  ;  but  he  would  probably  soon  find  this 
impracticable  ;  and  be  glad  to  relieve  himself  by  moderation  in 
the  tasks,  from  the  endless  and'  fruitless  drudgery  of  sitting 
in  judgment  every  day,  between  a  large  proportion  of  his 
slaves  and  the  accusing  drivers,  now  in  truth  become  only 
superintendants  of  their  work.  The  evil  might  thus  cure 
itself;  and  if  the  punishments  were  more  frequent  in  the 
mean  time,  they  would  for  the  reasons  assigned,  be  less 
severe.  They  would  also  be  more  equal  and  impartial;  for 
the  master's  interest,  if  not  his  feelings,  would  be  on  the  side 

*  I  will  not  here  cite  any  of  the  numberless  proofs  to  be  found  of  such 
severity  in  the  official  accounts  laid  before,  and  printed  by,  parliament, 
for  cruelty  in  punishments  is  one  of  the  topics  I  have  declined,  though 
obliged  here  and  elsewhere  to  advert  to  it  as  incidental  to  the  subject  of 
labour.  Whoever  wishes  for  full  satisfaction,  as  to  the  frequency  of  such 
severities,  need  only  read  the  extracts  from  those  parliamentary  documents 
given  in  the  Anti-slavery  Reports.  But  in  an  appendix  which  I  have  pro- 
mised upon  other  views,  the  above  statements  will  be  sufficiently  verified. 

222  Of  the  cruel  (Did  peitikious  Means 

of  equality  and  justice.  He  would  not  have  like  those  sub- 
despots,  the  drivers,  among  their  fellow-slaves,  connexions, 
and  attachments,  and  rivalships,  and  enmities  to  warp  him, 
either  in  the  apportionment  of  labour  to  individuals,  or  the 
punishment  of  their  defaults. 

Reasonably  do  those  planters  whom  I  have  cited  and  have 
yet  to  cite,  as  to  the  ordinary  conduct  of  the  driver,  consider 
the  abuse  of  his  power  as  a  natural  consequence  of  his  au- 
thority. Their  express  testimony  was  not  necessary  to  prove 
it ;  for  it  would  be  strange  to  suppose,  that  men  destitute  of 
religious  and  moral  education,  are  guarded  by  native  feelings 
of  humanity  and  justice,  against  those  abuses  to  which  arbi- 
trary power  in  the  best  of  hands  commonly  seduces  its  pos- 
sessors ;  and  that,  those  feelings  too  are  proof  against  the  ob- 
durating  influence  of  habit,  among  men  whose  daily  and 
hourly  business  it  is  to  impose  harsh  restraints,  and  inflict 
severe  punishments  with  their  own  hands,  upon  their  fellow- 

We  expect  no  such  incorruptible  virtue  in  our  public  exe- 
cutioners or  gaolers  ;  nor  are  we  much  surprised,  when  we 
read  reports  of  the  apathy  with  which  men,  even  in  a  liberal 
profession,  regard  the  cruel  treatment  of  pauper  lunatics,  long 
placed  under  their  own  immediate  charge ;  still  less  at  the 
obduracy  of  the  keepers  they  employ.  Where  then  is  that 
moral  charter  to  be  found,  that  exempts  the  enslaved  negro- 
driver,  from  the  corrupting  influence  of  habits  still  more  inve- 
terate, and  more  directly  opposed  to  every  benevolent  feel- 
ing ?  Certainly  not,  if  our  planters  are  to  be  believed,  in  their 
African  extraction,  or  sympathy  with  their  own  injured  race  ; 
for  we  are  incessantly  told,  though  1  confess  untruly,  that 
they  make,  when  free,  the  worst  of  masters ;  and  even  in 
slavery  are  tyrants  to  each  other. 

"  That  negroes  are  cruel  to  one  another,"  says  Mr.  Beck- 
ford,  '*  cannot  be  denied  ;  they  will  assassinate  without  com- 
"  punction,"  &:c.  "  I  have  observed  that  new  negroes  are  par- 
"  ticularly  fond  of  power  ;  and  will  exert  it  as  if  accustomed 
"  to  severity  ;  and  when  raised  to  the  authority  of  drivers,  will 
"  be    more  despotic    and    inhuman   than   the  Creoles  are."* 

*   Ueniui'ks,  ^v.c.  p.  87-8. 

hij  ivhich  Slave  Labour  is  enforced.  223 

The  distinction  may  be  doubted  ;  but  that  both  are  cruel,  and 
their  abuses  not  likely  to  be  restrained  by  the  overseers,  he 
shews  in  several  parts  of  his  work. 

"  I  am  sorry  to  observe,"  he  says  "  that  punishments  in 
"  Jamaica,  are  often  inflicted  upon  the  bodies  of  the  negroes 
"  without  discretion,  and  very  frequently  rather  to  gratify  re- 
"  venge,  than  for  the  sake  of  example.  An  overseer  who  is 
"  addicted  to  drink,  will  not  make  any  discrimination  in  the 
"  absence  of  reason,  between  the  generally  laborious  and  ac- 
"  cidentally  idle,  and  there  are  drivers  upon  some  plantations 
"  rvho  ivill  sleep  over  the  work  of  the  negroes  committed  to  their 
^'  charge  ivhen  the  white  people  are  absent,  but  who  will  use  the 
"  ivhip  tvithout  necessity/  as  soon  as  one  shall  appear  in  sight. 
"  I  am  willing  to  believe  that  it  is  sometimes  meant  as  a 
"  warning;  but  why  make  a  mockery  of  punishment,  or  suffer 
"  that  to  be  considered  as  sport  to  an  able  negro,  that  intimi- 
"  dates  and  consequently  becomes  pain  to  those  who  are  sick 
*'  and  weakly  ?  I  am  convinced  that  custom  and  bad  exam- 
"  pie  have  a  fatal  influence  upon  the  conduct  of  the  genera- 
"  lity  of  white  people  in  Jamaica ;  many  of  whom  imagine 
"  that  the  appearance  of  discipline  is  a  spur  to  labour,  and 
"  that  negroes  will  not  work  unless  roused  by  the  sound 
"  of  the  whip."* 

I  hope  my  readers  will  remember  that  this  was  written  by 
a  defender  of  slavery,  and  the  slave-trade  :  and  at  a  time  too 
when  the  power  of  the  drivers  to  use  the  whip,  was  as  boldly 
denied  by  some  eminent  planters,  as  it  is  by  the  legislators  of 
St.  Vincent's,  and  by  the  accredited  champions  of  all  the  co- 
lonies, in  the  present  day. 

Mr.  Stewart,  after  the  passage  which  I  have  cited  from  his 
wook,  (supra,  p.  133,)  as  to  the  partiality  and  injustice  of  the 
driver,  adds,  "  He  makes  a  shew,  by  way  of  saving  appear- 
"  ances  of  equal  severity  to  both,  (i.  e.  to  a  slave  whom  he 
"  favours,  and  one  whom  he  dislikes,) .  but  by  the  dextrous 
"  command  he  has  of  the  whip,  he  has  it  in  his  power  to  in- 
"  flict  either  a  very  slight,  or  a  very  severe  punishment.  On 
*•'  such  occasions,  the  persecuted  slave  is  too  often   afraid  to 

Romnrk<,  JvC.  p.  41,  4'2,  in  the  notes. 

224  Of  the  cruel  and  pernicious  Means 

"  complain  to  his  master;  thinking  it  would  lead  to  renewed 
*^  persecutions ;  and  though  there  are  doubtless  men  in  the 
"  situation  of  overseers  who  would  not  permit  such  barbari- 
*'  ties  were  they  aware  of  them,  it  is  equally  true  that  there 
"  are  others  who  will  support  the  authority  of  their  drivers, 
"  however  iniquitously  exercised.* 

It  is  not  from  harshness  or  violence  of  temper,  alone  that 
these  coarse  and  degraded  agents  of  despotic  authority,  are 
prone  to  abuse  their  power  among  the  negroes  whom  they 
drive.  They  have  not  only  their  friends,  and  their  enemies, 
their  mistresses,  and  their  rivals  in  the  gang,  but  fellow-slaves 
who  sometimes  work  for  them  on  Sundays,  or  carry  to  mar- 
ket articles  they  have  for  sale;  while  others,  no  doubt,  may 
have  been  found  unwilling  so  to  entitle  themselves  to  favour  ; 
and  can  it  be  doubted  that  such  considerations  often  unfairly 
impel  or  withhold  the  lash,  while  they  are  following  the  poor 
drudges  in  the  field  ? 

By  no  conceivable  means  can  injustice  and  cruelty  in  the 
exercise  of  the  driver's  discretionary  powers,  while  they  are 
suffered  to  exist,  be  controuled.  For  this  also  I  have  quoted 
the  authority  of  Mr.  Stewart.  But  how  can  it  be  questioned 
by  any  thinking  mind  ?  Among  all  the  idle  pretences  by 
which  the  odious  system  has  been  palliated  and  disguised, 
there  is  none  more  self-evidently  preposterous  than  that  the 
manager  or  overseer,  unavoidably  absent  from  the  field  during 
great  part  of  the  day,  can  judge  between  the  drivers  and  the 
driven,  so  as  to  check  partiality  and  oppression  in  each  indi- 
vidual instance.  If  the  poor  slave,  whipped  up  repeatedly 
during  the  work,  for  not  throwing  his  hoe  with  sufficient  ce- 
lerity or  momentum,  were  bold  enough  to  complain  on  return- 
ing to  the  homestall,  against  a  man  who  is  to  drive  him  again 
in  the  morning,  and  during  every  day  of  his  life,  how  is  he  to 
prove  his  case  ? 

Let  it  be  supposed. that  his  fellow-labourers  are  so  daringly 
generous  as  to  be  willing  to  support  the  charge  ;  yet  how 
can   this    testimony  avail   him  ?     They  were  each  intent  on 

*  Stewart's  View  of  the  Past  and  Present  State  of  Jamaica,  App.  346, 347. 
t  Supra,  p.  132. 

by  which  Slave  Labour  is  enforced.  225 

his  own  particular  share  of  the  work ;  and  can  no  more 
determine  wlietlicr  the  complainant  was  in  fault,  than  a 
private  soldier  in  line  upon  parade,  whether  the  other  men 
shouldered  or  presented  their  arms  with  precision,  or  dressed 
with  due  correctness.  The  accused  driver  himself  is  the  only 
competent  witness;  and  were  the  statement  of  the  injured 
slave  to  prevail  against  his  denial  of  the  charge,  this  species 
of  subordination,  so  essential  in  the  eyes  of  our  planters,  could 
not  possibly  be  maintained. 

The  idea  of  a  manager  holding  a  tribunal  at  the  end  of  the 
day's  work  to  hear  and  try  the  complaints  of  fifty  or  a  hundred 
negroes,  or  as  many  of  them  as  may  think  the  whip  had  been 
in  some  instances  needlessly  applied  to  their  backs,  is  prepos- 
terous. It  may  serve,  like  the  other  extravagant  fables  of  the 
colonists,  to  deceive  European  readers,  who  will  not  stop  to  rea- 
son on  these  painful  subjects  ;  but  a  few  moments  of  reflection 
will  suffice  to  shew  that  it  is  quite  incredible.  If  managers  and 
overseers  were  the  very  reverse  of  what  they  in  general  are,  if 
they  were  the  most  intelligent  and  industrious  of  mankind,  such 
judicial  functions  would  be  more  than  enough  to  occupy  all 
their  time,  and  exhaust  all  their  energies  ;  whereas  the  duties 
they  are  really  expected  to  perform,  are  confessedly  fully  equal 
to,  if  not  surpassing,  any  ordinary  powers.  Committing  as  they 
unavoidably  do,  the  details  of  the  field  work,  implicitly  to  the 
drivers,  their  general  inadequacy  to  the  various  important  la- 
bours which  belong  to  the  agricultural  and  manufacturing  bu- 
siness of  a  plantation,  and  the  government  of  its'multudinous 
gang,  is  nevertheless  universally  admitted. 

It  may  be  useful  here  to  give  a  few  specimens  of  what  my 
antagonists  state  as  to  the  great  personal  consequence  of  the 
drivers  ;  and  as  to  the  character  of  those  white  agents  by 
whom  they  are  said  to  be  controuled. 

Let  me  quote  in  the  first  place,  The  Jamaica  Planter's 
Guide,  published  in  1823,  by  "  Mr.  Thomas  Roughlej/,  nearly 
"  twenty  years  a  sugar  planter  in  Jamaica."  So  he  is  de- 
scribed in  his  title  page;  and  his  readers  will  find  him  a 
thorough-paced  defender  of  the  system  he  had  so  long  admi- 
nistered. He  is,  to  use  a  reigning  phraseology,  a  perfect 
ultra  \n  his  attachment  to  the  cause  of  slavery ;  and  in  his 
enmity  to   all  who   oppose  it.     This  writer  says  "  The   most 

VOL.    11.  Q 

226  Of  the  cruel  and  pernicious  Means 

"  important  personage  in  the  slave  population  of  an  estate  is 
"  the  head  driver.  He  is  seen  carrying  with  him  the  emblems 
"  of  his  rank  and  dignity,  a  polished  staff,  or  wand  with 
"  prongy  crooks  on  it  to  lean  on,  and  a  short  handled  tangible 
"  whip ;  his  office  combining  within  itself  a  power,  derived 
'*  principally  from  the  overseer,  of  directing  all  conditions  of 
"  slaves  relative  to  the  precise  work  he  wishes  each  gang  or 
"  mechanic  to  undergo  or  execute,  &c.  There  are  so  many 
"  points  to  turn  to,  so  many  occasions  for  his  skill,  vigilance, 
"  steadiness  and  trustworthiness,  that  the  selection  of  such 
"  a  man  fit  for  such  a  place  requires  circumspection  and  an 
"  intimate  knowledge  of  his  talents  and  capacity.  A  bad  or 
"  indifferent  head  driver,  sets  almost  every  thing  at  variance, 
"  injures  the  negroes,  and  the  culture  of  the  estate :  He  is 
"  like  a  cruel  blast  that  pervades  every  thing,  and  spares  no- 
*'  thing,"  &c.* 

This  experienced  manager  proceeds  to  shew  us  the  various 
evils  resulting  from  the  faults  of  the  drivers;  but  among  them 
we  do  not  find  any  mention  of  troublesome  appeals  to  the 
manager  or  overseers  ;  and  his  language  plainly  shews  that  it 
is  not  from  the  complaints  of  the  slaves,  but  from  the  effects 
only  on  their  disposition  and  conduct,  that  the  abuses  of 
driving  are  to  be  discovered.  '*  When  the  drivers  are  ill- 
"  disposed,  he,  the  overseer  (which  in  Jamaica  means  the 
"  head  manager),  will  perceive  the  negroes  likewise  so  :  the 
"  work  will  not  be  carried  on  agreeably  to  his  dictates : 
*'  things  suffer  in  general :  the  slaves  run  away,  or  are  in- 
"  clined  to  be  turbulent,  &.C. :  they  even  aim,"  he  adds,  "  at 
"  the  existence  of  the  white  people.  The  root,  then,  of  this 
*'  evil  must  be  struck  at,  and  the  head  driver  and  his  abettors 
"  sent  to  public  punishment."* 

The  words  of  an  apologist  cannot  more  intelligibly  shew 
that  the  pretence  of  an  intimate  daily  superintendance  and 
controui  of  this  **  sub-despot,"  as  Dr.  Collins  calls  him,  in 
the  particular  cases  of  oppressed  individuals,  is  utterly  un- 
founded. He  is  known  only  by  his  general  and  aggregate 
fruits ;    the  general  ill-will,  discontent,  and  despair  of  the 

Jamaica  Planters' Guide,  p.    1.  f  Ibid.  8Q,  83. 

hi^  which  Slave  Labour  is  enforced.  227 

uafortunate  gang,  when  his  tyranny  is  pushed  to  excess,  are 
the  only  indications  of  their  sufferings  that  can  commonly 
meet  the  master's  notice.  Injured  individuals,  instead  of 
daring  to  complain  of  the  driver,  run  away  ;  and  like  a 
bad  minister,  or  rather  like  a  cruel  gaoler,  the  only  remedy 
is  his  removal,  or  punishment,  when  his  general  maladminis- 
tration becomes  so  visible  as  to  call  for  that  which  is  a  kind 
of  revolution  on  the  estate. 

Is  it  likely,  that  even  in  such  extreme  cases,  the  remedy  is 
often  applied,  or  that  the  drivers  are  controuled  even  when 
complaints  can  be  tried  ?  To  determine  that  question,  it  will 
be  useful  next  to  shew  what  my  opponents  confess  as  to  the 
ordinary  character  of  managers  or  overseers. 

Let  us  mark  the  candid  avowal  of  Mr.  De  la  Beche  on  this 
subject :  —  "  I  by  no  means  wish  to  state  that  the  overseers 
**  always  lean  to  the  side  of  justice,  believing  that  not  one- 
"  half  of  them  are  qualified  to  wield  the  powers  that  under 
"  existing  circumstances  must  necessarily  be  entrusted  to 
"  them."* 

*'  If  an  overseer,"  says  Mr.  Stewart,  "  be  a  man  of  educa- 
"  tion  and  feeling,  and  that  feeling  has  not  been  extinguished 
"  by  habits  certainly  not  calculated  to  soften  the  heart  or 
"  improve  the  manners,  he  has  it  in  his  power  to  impart 
"  much  good  in  his  situation.  He  may  soften  the  hardships 
"  of  the  slaves,  and  render  their  toils  more  easy  ;  he  may 
"  hear  and  redress  their  complaints,  &c.  It  would  be  a 
"  happy  circumstance  for  the  slaves  if  such  characters  were 
"  more  common  than  they  are  among  this  class  of  persons; 
"  but  the  chief  ambition  of  too  many  is  rather  who  shall 
"  make  the  largest  crops,  the  finest  quality  of  sugar,  &c., 
"  than  who  shall  govern  the  slaves  placed  under  their  care 
**  with  the  greatest  moderation  and  humanity." 

As  to  the  ordinary  "  education  and  feelings"  of  the  overseers 
or  head  managers  in  Jamaica,  the  same  writer  is  painfully 
instructive ;  but  his  statements  and  remarks  are  too  long 
for  insertion  here.  They  extend  from  the  188th  to  the  195th 
page  of  his  work,  and  are  well  worthy  of  the  attention  of  such 

*  See  the  quotation  at  large,  supra,  p.  74. 
Q  2 

228  Of  the  cruel  and  peniicious  Means 

readers  as  desire  to  have  just  ideas  of  the  situation  of  plan- 
tation slaves,  so  far  as  respects  the  character  of  their  im- 
mediate masters,  in  the  very  ordinary  case  of  the  owners' 
absence  in  Europe.  The  general  effect  is,  that  the  men  who 
lill  the  situations  of  overseers  in  Jamaica  are  promoted  to 
them  from  those  of  book-keepers,  in  which  they  must  pre- 
viously have  served  five  or  six  years;  and  the  account  which 
he  gives  of  the  situations,  treatment,  and  habits  of  the  latter, 
during  that  long  novitiate,  is  in  the  highest  degree  revolting 
and  appalling.  The  negro  slaves  themselves  are  hardly  more 
despised  than  these  "  voluntary  slaves,"  as  Mr,  Stewart  ra- 
ther inaptly  calls  them  ;  inaptly,  because  they  are  commonly 
poor  ignorant  lads,  sent  out  from  the  mother  country  under 
indentures,  their  will  to  enter  into  which  preceded  all  know- 
ledge of  the  degraded  and  miserable  state  they  were  to  be 
sent  to.  The  appellation  "  book-keepei"  is  strangely  *'  mis- 
placed ;"  for  as  the  same  author  observes, "  a  man  who  had 
•'  never  seen  an  account  book  in  his  life,  may  yet  be  a  very 
"  expert  book-keeper."  But  it  probably  serves,  and  was  no 
doubt  intended  to  do  so,  like  the  tricks  of  a  recruiting  Ser- 
jeant, to  seduce  into  the  plantation  bonds  many  a  raw  strip- 
lino-,  who  would  have  spurned  at  the  more  proper  name  of  a 
white  negro-driver. 

Mr.  Stewart  thinks,  and  1  agree  with  him,  that  such  of 
them  as  have  received  but  little  education,  who  "have  been 
*•  accustomed  from  their  earliest  years  to  a  rustic  and  drudg- 
"  ino  hfe,  who  in  short  have  directed  the  plough,  or  wielded 
"  the  pitchfork,  in  their  native  country,  are  not  so  much  to 
"  be  sympathised  with,  as  those  who  have  been  liberally 
"  educated." 

But  I  doubt,  whether  he  is  right  in  supposing,  as  he  seems 
to  do,  that  liberality  of  education  in  these  unfortunate  youths, 
would  qualify  better  for  the  office  of  overseers,  such  of  them  as 
may  live  to  attain  it;  for  in  proportion  to  the  refinement  of 
former  feelings  and  ideas,  must  probably  be  not  only  the  pain, 
but  the  corrupting  and  obdurating  effects  of  the  situation  to 
which  they  are  forced  to  submit,  and  the  harsh  duties  they 
have  to  perform.  The  more  violence  that  is  done  to  liberal 
and  virtuous  feelings  at  the  outset,  the  greater  will  be  their 
ultimate  ruin.     Mr.  Stewart,  indeed,  admits,  that  if  the  better 

h[l  wJtich  Slaue  Labour  is  enforced.  229 

educated  youth,  docs  not  find  resource  and  consolation  during 
his  painful  and  degrading  service,  by  reading  at  his  solitary 
hours,  he  is  likely  *'  to  contract  low  depraved  habits,"  to  re- 
nounce his  better  feelings,  and  "  become  seared  loith  a  reckless 
"  apathj/."  Now,  that  he  should  resort  sufficiently  to  such 
an  antidote,  is,  upon  our  author's  premises,  not  very  likely  ; 
for  he  tells  us,  that  the  poor  book-keeper  has  little  time  that 
he  can  possibly  give  to  reading  ;  that  even  Sunday  is  not  alto- 
gether his  own  ;  and  that  "  it  would  be  unpardonable  to  allow 
"  books  to  interfere  with  the  business  of  the  estate." 

The  colonial  advocates  often  appeal  to  our  national  feelings, 
by  asking,  whether  it  is  probable,  that  in  a  white  population, 
constantly  recruited  from  this  country,  the  slave-masters  should 
generally  be  found  to  have  left  their  native  humanity  and  libe- 
rality on  this  side  of  the  Atlantic  ?  At  the  same  time  we  are 
told,  not  very  consistently,  that  Europeans  very  often,  I  think, 
by  some  it  is  said,  genera/lj/,  are  more  severe  masters  than  the 
Creole  whites.  I  believe,  that  this  latter  plea,  is  not  wholly 
unfounded  in  fact ;  but  the  answer  to  both  is,  that  before 
Europeans  become  slave-masters  on  a  plantation,  they  are 
long,  howsoever  reluctantly  at  first,  trained  and  hackneyed 
to  the  administration  of  its  odious  discipline  ;  and  that,  when 
virtuous  propensities  are  subdued  by  temptation,  and  yield  to 
habitual  controul,  it  is  natural  in  this,  as  in  other  cases,  that 
the  moral  victim  should  not  only  lose  his  former  sensibility, 
but  pass  beyond  others  in  the  vices  he  once  abhorred.  The 
more  force  it  requires  to  strain  the  bow,  the  further  the  arrow 
flies.  We  are  not  surprised  to  find  in  women,  who  have 
thrown  off,  from  strong  temptations  perhaps  at  first,  the  re- 
straints of  their  native  modesty  and  virtue,  a  degree  of  im- 
pudence and  profligacy,  beyond  that  of  the  coarser  sex. 

Whatever  be  the  causes,  the  fact,  that  West  India  overseers 
are  too  commonly  of  a  harsh  and  unfeeling  character,  is  at- 
tested beyond  dispute.  To  the  authorities  that  I  have  cited, 
I  might  add  many  more.  Even  iMr.  Roughley,  that  most  de- 
termined defender  of  the  general  system,  sufficiently  discloses 
that  truth.  His  censures  on  the  overseers,  indeed,  are  chiefly 
pointed  at  their  morose  and  tyrannical  conduct  towards  the 
unfortunate  book-keepers  ;  but  if  it  could  be  doubted,  whether 
the  same  disposition  must  be  felt  by  their  still  more  helpless 

230  Of  the  cruel  and  pernicious  Means 

dependents  with  black  skins,  one  of  his  own  incidental  re- 
marks would  remove  it ;  "  his  temper  is  soured  by  frequent 
"  casualties  of  this  nature,  (i.  e.  by  frequent  breaches  with 
"  his  white  assistants,)  and  vents  itself  often  with  terrible 
"  consequences  upon  the  slaves  under  him.'"*  He  speaks,  in- 
deed, of  such  men  chiefly,  as  *' Overseers,  of  the  old  school;" 
but  while  he  illustrates  their  savage  conduct  by  recent  and 
shocking  instances,  he  does  not  tell  us,  that  any  new  school  is 
generally  established  ;  and  his  anxious  advice  to  absent  pro- 
prietors, to  change  their  ordinary  choice  of  attornies  and  other 
agents,  sufficiently  betrays  his  consciousness  of  the  leverse. 
The  whole  of  his  long  chapter  on  plantation  attornies  and 
agents  is,  on  this  and  other  subjects,  highly  instructive  ;  at 
least  when  read  as  the  language  of  a  man,  who  had  been  for 
twenty  years  an  administrator  of  the  system,  and  whose 
anxious  endeavour  it  is  to  reconcile  it  to  the  feelings  of  the 
British  public. 

But  let  me  not  deal  unfairly  with  the  overseers  and  managers. 
It  is  not  solely,  nor  chiefly,  to  misconduct  on  their  parts,  that 
the  cruelties  of  the  driving  system  are  to  be  ascribed.  These 
strictures  on  their  characters  are  cited  only  to  shew,  that  a 
humane  controul  on  their  part,  of  the  driver's  conduct  in  the 
ordinary  use  of  the  coercing  whip,  which  I  have  shewn  to  be 
for  the  most  part  impracticable,  is  not  likely  to  be  often  at- 
tempted, at  a  grievous  expense  of  their  time  and  ease,  even  to 
the  small  extent  in  which  such  controul  is  possible.  Without 
even  taking  into  account  the  indolence  and  love  of  ease,  to 
which  men  of  all  descriptions  are  proverbially  prone  in  that 
country,  enough  has  been  shewn  of  the  case,  to  make  such 
very  onerous  humanity  hopeless.  Implicit  confidence  in  the 
drivers,  is  the  manager's  or  overseer's  only  easy  chair  ;  and  he 
must  be  a  man  of  very  active  benevolence,  who  should  be 
willing  to  resign  it,  as  often  as  would  be  necessary  to  decide 
such  differences  even  as  are  capable  of  fair  investigation, 
between  the  drivers  and  the  driven.  To  encourage  com- 
plaints, would  be  to  make  his  office  more  laborious  than  that 
of  the  driver  himself. 

*  Jamaica  Planters'  Guide,  p.  51.  f  See  Chapter  I.  throughout. 

hy  which  Slave  Labour  is  etif arced.  23 1 

Besides,  the  overseers  are  not  generally  at  liberty  to  consult 
their  own  feelings,  but  are  impelled  to  exact  such  an  excess 
of  labour  as  is  incompatible  with  humane  restrictions  on  the 
driver's  coercive  discipline.  "  There  are  not  wanting  attornies," 
says  Mr.  Stewart,  "  who,  anxious  to  outdo  their  predecessors 
"  in  the  magnitude  of  the  crops,  and  thereby  forward  their 
"  own  interest  and  reputation,  too  often  act  as  a  stimulus, 
"  instead  of  a  restraint  on  this  impolitic  and  unfeeling  zeal  of 
"  the  overseers,  by  continually  reminding  them  of  the  quan- 
"  tum  of  produce,  and  of  work  they  expect."* 

I  wish  this  intelligent  writer  had  not  stopped  here.  He 
might  have  shewn  how  the  attornies,  in  their  turn,  are  stimu- 
lated to  the  same  avaricious  oppression  by  the  proprietors 
resident  in  this  country,  and  their  commercial  consignees. 

Why  are  the  attornies  remunerated  in  proportion  only  to 
the  quantities  of  sugar  they  consign?  The  general,  and  I 
believe  in  Jamaica  the  only,  reward  of  their  services,  is  a 
commission  on  the  produce  shipped.  I  think  it  is  either  a 
guinea  per  hogshead,  or  5  per  cent.  A  premium  on  the  pre- 
servation, and  native  increase  of  the  slaves,  or  even  a  draw- 
back on  the  commissions  when  the  deaths  exceed  the  births, 
would  have  widely  different  effects ;  but  I  never  heard  of 
any  instance  of  such  a  humane  departure  from  the  general 
practice;  and  believe,  that  no  such  exception  to  it  is_any 
where  alleged. 

Section  V. — The  only  remedy  for  these  mischiefs,  compatible 
with  forced  labour,  is  individual  task-work. 

Here  I  have  to  open  a  most  lamentable,  and  at  the  same 
time  a  most  undeniable  part  of  the  case  —  the  unjust  and 
cruel  effects  of  a  wholesale  method  of  coercion,  which  like 
the  bed  of  Procrustes,  levels  almost  all  inequalities  of  health 
and  strength,  or  makes  them  sources  of  inevitable  miseries, 
at  least  to  the  weaker  slaves. 

Let  the  reader  look  back  on  my  description  of  driving,  as 
extracted  from  my  earliest  publication  on  slavery,  and  on  the 

*  Ibid.  p.  188. 

232  Of  the  cruel  and  pertiicioias  Means 

decisive  authorities  by  which  I  have  evinced  its  correctness  ; 
and  he  will  see,  that  the  want  of  discrimination  between  the 
different  deorees  of  strength  of  the  individual  labourers  of  both 
sexes,  driven  forward  together  in  line  or  file,  is  one  of  its  most 
prominent  but  essential  mischiefs.  If  the  standard  of  forced 
exertion,  in  point  of  time  and  intensity,  were  reduced  to  the 
capacity  of  the  weakest,  there  might  in  this  respect,  be  no 
ground  of  complaint ;  but  I  have  shewn,  that  it  is  on  the  con- 
trary, such,  as  without  experience  we  should  hardly  believe, 
the  strongest  could  long  endure. 

Dr.  Collins  after  confirming,  as  has  been  shewn,  my  stric- 
tures on  this  cruel  consequence  of  the  driving  method,  nearly 
in  the  very  words  I  used,  suggests  to  the  planters  a  remedy, 
or  rather  a  palliative,  which  further  marks  the  character  of  the 
general  practice.  "  In  order  that  the  weak  may  not  work 
"  too  much,  nor  the  strong  too  little,  it  is  advisable  to  di- 
"  vide  your  force  into  a  greater  number  of  sections  or  gangs," 

Inadequate  as  this  expedient  must  prove,  the  partial  im- 
provement has  not  been  generally  if  any  where  adopted.  It 
appears  from  Mr.  De  laBeche  and  Mr.  Stewart,  and  even  from 
Mr.  Roughley's  accounts,  that  the  number  of  sections  or  gangs 
now  in  use,  is  not  greater  than  it  was  when  Dr.  Collins  pub- 
lished his  valuable  work. 

Conscious  that  the  remedy  would  be  at  best  but  partial.  Dr. 
Collins  speaks  favorably  of  the  only  effectual  one,  the  disuse 
of  driving,  and  substitution  of  task-work,  when  possible;  a 
change  which  had  been  recommended  by  example  in  many 
parts  of  the  American  continent.  He  shews  how  much  it 
would  tend  to  encourage,  as  well  as  ease  the  labourers;  whereas 
nothing,  as  he  observes,  "  can  depress  them  more  than  a  tire- 
"  some  routine  of  duty,  which  presents  no  prospect  of  end, 
"  relief,  or  recompense. "f  He  regarded  task-work,  indeed,  as 
not  inmost  cases  practicable  ;  though  the  reasons  he  assigns 
for  it,  seem  not  very  easy  to  comprehend,  and  even  to  be  at 

*  Practical  Rules,  176,  &c.     See  extract,  p.  55,  6,  supra, 
t  Practical  Rules,  p.  179. 

by  which  Slave  Labour  is  enjurced.  233 

variance  with  his  own  views  in  the  context.     But  my  readers 
shall  judge  of  his  meaning  from  his  own  language. 

"  The  misfortune  is,"  he  says,  "  that  the  rule  is  applicable 
"  only  to  a  very  few ;  from  the  necessity  of  dividing  our  ne- 
"  groes,  as  above  recommended,  into  several  gangs,  and  the 
"  various  kinds  of  work  which  they  have  respectively  to  exe- 
"  cute,  and  the  fluctuation  of  their  numbers  from  day  to  day 
"  by  sickness  or  other  circumstances,  which  rejects  every  idea 
"  of  their  labouring  universally  on  such  a  system ;  but  when- 
"  ever  it  is  found  practicable  in  any  case,  it  ought  to  be  done, 
"  The  several  kinds  of  business  assigned  to  the  strong  gang 
"  are  of  that  description,  and  of  course  subject  to  such  regu- 
"  lation,  as  you  have  the  same  power  to  execute  the  same 
"  service  daily  ;  for  should  any  of  your  strong  gang  fall  sick, 
"  or  give  out  at  their  work,  you  have  the  means  of  replacing 
"  them,  by  occasional  draughts  from  your  middle  gang,  which 
**  will  contain  some  negroes  robust  enough  to  supply  their 
"  place,  until  they  return  to  their  labour  ;  so  as  always  to  keep 
''  up  the  number  of  holers."* 

The  solution  of  the  apparent  difficulty  in  these  passages,  I 
conceive  to  be  this  :  Dr.  Collins  had  in  view,  when  he  recom- 
mended task-work,  the  assessment  of  a  daily  portion  of  the 
work  required,  not  on  each  individual  slave,  but  on  the  collective 
gang.  His  habits  as  a  planter,  and  long-resident  colonist, 
naturally  led  him  to  that  use  of  the  word ;  for  task- work  is  a 
well-known  term  in  the  West  Indies  ;  and  means  the  perform- 
ing a  given  portion  of  work  by  contract,  when  the  slaves  are 
hired  for  the  purpose,  of  a  master  who  is  not  the  owner  of  the 
soil ;  and  it  is  chiefly  in  use  in  the  laborious  process  of  holeing, 
which  Dr.  Collins  appears  clearly  by  the  context  to  have  had 
chiefly  in  view.  The  owner  of  the  slaves,  commonly  called  a 
**  task-work,"or'*  jobbing-gang,"  contracts  to  hole  for  a  given 
price,  so  many  acres  of  land  ;  and  our  author  probably  meant, 
that  the  great  gang  of  the  estate  might  be  tasked  collectively, 
with  adequate  portions  of  the  same  species  of  work,  to  be  ac- 
complished in  a  limited  time.  But  did  he  also  mean,  that  the 
driver's  immediate  coercion   should  be   withdrawn  ?     If  not. 

Ibid.  p.  178,9. 

234  Of  the  cruel  and  pernicious  Means 

there  would  be  little,  if  any,  diminution  of  the  evils,  which  he 
wished  to  remove.  The  task-work  gangs  in  use,  are  worked 
under  the  contractor's  own  drivers ;  and  it  is  agreed  on  both 
sides,  that  their  condition  is  not  better,  but  rather  worse,  than 
that  of  the  plantation  slaves. 

It  is  probably  now  of  great  practical  importance  to  mark 
well  the  distinction  between  collective,  and  individual  task- 
woik  ;  for  in  some  of  the  colonies,  where  the  crown  has  legis- 
lative authority,  driving  is  now  prohibited  by  law ;  and  it  is 
said,  that  it  is  accordingly  laid  aside  in  practice,  and  task- 
work adopted  in  its  stead  ;  an  innovation,  the  effects  of  which, 
the  planters  will  of  course  be  desirous  to  depreciate.  But  it  is 
highly  probable,  not  only  from  the  long  established  use  of  the 
term,  but  from  the  regard  of  managers  to  their  own  ease  and 
convenience,  that  where  such  a  substitution  has  been  made, 
the  tasks  have  been  assessed,  not  on  each  individual  slave, 
but  on  the  gangs  that  had  usually  worked  together  ;  e.  g.  that 
they  should  hole  a  particular  cane-piece,  or  a  certain  propor- 
tion of  it,  in  a  given  time.  Such  a  method  cannot  be  ex- 
pected to  operate  satisfactorily,  or  not  to  be  attended  with 
some  highly  inconvenient  effects  ;  for  how  are  individuals  to 
enforce  from  each  other  their  fair  contributions  to  the  accom- 
plishment of  the  general  task  ? 

It  is  not  very  uncommon  for  a  small  number  of  workmen  in 
this  country,  mutually  to  contract  with  their  employer  to 
perform  a  given  service  by  their  united  efforts  for  a  common 
reward ;  as  to  cut  down  a  field  of  hay,  at  a  certain  price  per 
acre ;  but  they  are,  or  suppose  themselves  to  be,  of  nearly 
equal  capacity ;  and  can  depend  on  each  other  for  equal  exer- 
tion, because  a  failure  in  it  is  what  they  would  have  power  to 
punish,  if  not  in  the  division  of  the  price,  at  least  by  reproach, 
and  by  an  exclusion  from  such  associated  undertakings  in 
future.  But  in  a  gang  of  slaves,  of  very  unequal  degrees  of 
strength,  and  whose  union  in  work  is  neither  by  choice,  nor  of 
brief  duration,  but  imposed  on  them  for  hfe  by  authority  they 
cannot  resist,  there  can  be  no  security  whatever  for  a  fair  and 
equal  contribution  to  the  common  task,  though  all  may  have 
the  same  interest  in  obtaining  by  its  speedy  accomplishment 
an  earlier  dismission  from  the  field.     Endless  quarrels  among 

by  which  Slave  Labour  is  eiij'orced.  235 

themselves,  and  incessant  appeals  to  the  master,  must  be  ex- 
pected to  ensue. 

I  am  far  from  thinking,  that  the  dismission  of  the  Whip 
from  the  field  would  not  still  be  a  benefit,  especially  when 
use  had  taught  them  the  advantages  of  fair  and  amicable 
co-operation  ;  but  it  is  individual  task-vVork  alone,  impartially 
and  moderately  assessed  by  the  master,  that  can  form  such  a 
substitute  for  driving  as  to  produce  the  proper  effects,  by 
giving  to  every  slave  a  fair  and  adequate  interest  in  his  or  her 
own  exertions. 

This,  however,  would  impose  new  and  onerous  duties  on 
the  managers  and  overseers  ;  and  it  was  therefore,  I  presume, 
that  Dr.  Collins  seems  not  to  have  extended  his  views  t6  so 
important  an  improvement  as  that  of  individual  task-work;  for 
he  was  fully  impressed  as  appears  in  various  parts  of  his  work, 
with  the  extreme  difficulty  to  be  encountered  in  every  reforma- 
tion of  the  established  system,  that  would  demand  from  its 
white  administrators  much  additional  energy  in  the  discharge 
of  their  important  functions ;  or  from  the  proprietors  an  ex- 
pensive addition  to  the  number  of  those  important  agents. 
The  allotting  to  each  working  individual  in  a  gang  of  150  or 
200  slaves  daily,  or  even  weekly,  his  or  her  separate  task, 
and  taking  cognizance  of  its  due  performance'  or  neglect, 
would  certainly  be  a  new  burthen  on  the  management  of  no 
trivial  amount,  and  such  as  that  well-informed  writer  probably 
thought  it  in  vain  to  propose. 

The  dreadful  alternative,  hovv'ever,  of  adhering  to  the  pre- 
sent method  of  brutal  coercion  is  such  as  it  would  be  well 
worth  every  sacrifice  to  avoid  ;  for  it  is  not  only  an  opprobrious 
degradation  of  our  species,  and  cruel  injustice  When  applied  to 
innocent  men,  but  largely  and  unavoidably  destructive  of  their 
health  and  lives. 

One  of  its  indisputably  Cruel  and  murderous  effects  demands 
particular  notice,  and  has  not  hitherto,  I  think,  met  with  the 
attention  it  deserves.  I  mean  the  impossibility  of  r^'conciling 
with  the  system,  in  a  multitude  of  cases,  the  allowance  of  such 
alleviations  or  temporary  suspensions  of  labour  to  individuals, 
as  sickness  or  weakness  may  render  necessary  for  the  recovery 
of  health  and  the  preservation  of  life. 

Even  in  this  temperate  and  healthy  climate  it  is  not  uncom- 

236  Of'  the  cruel  ami  pernicious  Means 

nion  that  languor,  weariness,  and  debility,  proceeding  from  no 
apparent  cause,  are  the  first  symptoms  of  a  serious  disease. 
Hard  working  people  of  both  sexes,  sometimes  find  themselves 
unfit  to  go  to  their  ordinary  work ;  or  are  obliged  during  the 
progress  of  it,  to  pause,  sit  down,  or  retire,  from  sensations  that 
they  can  ill  explain ;  though  to  resist  them,  might  not  only 
be  painful  but  dangerous.  With  men  and  women  working 
under  a  vertical  sun,  in  a  climate  where  the  first  sense  of 
disease  is  often  but  a  brief  prelude  to  its  crisis,  such  cases 
cannot  but  be  very  frequent ;  yet,  to  allow  the  slaves  to  re- 
main in  their  huts,  or  to  suspend  or  quit  their  work  in  the 
field,  on  the  plea  of  weakness  or  weariness  alone,  would  be 
incompatible  with  the  driving  system.  Such  pleas  would  be 
perpetually  brought  forward,  if  they  were  always  or  often  to 
prevail ;  for  that  the  poor  people  dislike  the  toil  they  are  driven 
to,  and  would  always  obtain  a  suspension  of  it  if  they  could, 
will  hardly,  I  presume,  be  doubted. 

Should  any  authorities  be  desired  for  such  natural  conse- 
quences of  forced  labour,  or  to  shew  that  fatal  effects  often  un- 
avoidably result  from  overruling  the  plea  of  weakness  or  sick- 
ness when  truly  alleged,  better  evidence  of  both  cannot  be 
desired  than  what  has  been  furnished  by  that  long-experienced 
planter  and  physician,  Dr.  Collins. 

"  You  must  expect,"  says  he,  **  that  your  negroes,  from  a 
"  constant  desire  of  sparing  themselves,  will  under  different 
"  pretexts,  be  for  changing  their  divisions,  and  taking  a  sta- 
"  tion  where  they  are  required  to  do  less,  as  you  will  find  them 
"  all  desirous  of  doing  no  more  than  they  can  avoid.  You 
"  must  necessarily  check  these  attempts,  unless  you  are  satis- 
"  fied,  that  there  is  a  real  necessity  for  indulging  them,  by 
"  such  evidence  of  their  impaired  strength,  as  you  can  no  longer 
"  doubt."t 

He  is  here  speaking  in  reference  to  his  proposed  classifi- 
cation, and  the  desire  to  pass  from  the  strong  into  the 
weaker  gang ;  but  on  the  ordinary  claims  of  indulgence, 
or  exemption  from    work,  he  speaks  more   copiously  in  his 

*   P.  184. 

by  which  Slave  Labour  is  enforced.  237 

chapter  on  the  sick,  a  few  extracts  from  which  may  suf- 
fice : 

"  Sorry  am  I  that  the  subject  requires  me  to  say,  that  no 
"  part  of  negro  management  has  been  more  neglected,  or  erro- 
"  neously  performed,  than  that  which  regards  the  treatment 
"  of  the  sick.  I  have  seen  many  slaves  that  were  compelled 
"  to  persevere  at  their  work,  who  ought  to  have  been  in  the 
"  hospital.  This  may  have  arisen  sometimes  from  the  im- 
"  patience  of  the  master  to  advance  his  work  ;  but  I  believe 
"  much  more  generally,  from  the  difficulty  which  he  is  under, 
"  of  distinguishing  real  from  affected  illness  ;  for  when  labour 
"  presses,  all  would  be  ill  to  escape  the  field  ;  and  it  is  not  at 
"  all  times  in  the  power  of  the  doctor  to  discover  the  impo- 
"  sition."* 

He  proceeds,  in  that  and  the  following  chapter,  to  give 
such  an  account  of  the  general  neglect  of  the  sick,  and  the 
ordinary  state  of  the  hospitals  and  sick-houses,  as  would  be 
well  wortli  the  perusal  of  those  who  have  been  taught  to  be- 
lieve, that  the  humanity  of  masters,  and  their  regard  to  their 
own  interest,  are  sufficient  pledges  for  the  good  treatment  of 
the  slaves  ;  but  this  part  of  the  system  well  deserves  a  separate 
consideration,  and  L  will  here  extract  only  one  passage  or  two 
that  are  in  point  to  my  immediate  subject ;  as  they  shew  to  what 
miseries  the  poor  slaves  will  submit  to  escape  from  the  driving- 

''  It  is  in  vain  to  dissemble,"  says  he,  "  that  the  sick  are 
"  but  too  frequently  neglected  ;  for  the  hospital  being  rather 
*'  a  disgusting  scene,  charged  with  unpleasant  odours,  and 
"  occupied  by  offensive  objects,  it  is  no  wonder  that  men 
"  should  neglect  a  duty  the  performance  of  which  is  attended 
"  with  painful  emotions."  "The  negroes  are  overlooked  or  for- 
•*  gotten,  they  linger  in  misery  and  pine  in  neglect,  and  if 
"  they  recover,  you  may  be  assured  it  is  nature  that  has  car- 
"  ried  them  through  the  disorder. "f 

Even  with  the  improvements  which  he  in  this  respect  suo"- 
gests,  the  hospital  would  be  apparently  a  most  deterring  abode. 
It  is  in  fact  a  prison,  which  he  says,  should  be  "  secured  by 

P.  236.  t  Ibid.  p. 253-4. 

238  Of  the  cruel  and  pernicious  Means 

"  bars  OK  jealousies  to  prevent  the  escape  of  the  negroes  ;"  and 
to  prevent  the  nurses'  connivance  at  their  going  out  by  night, 
he  advises  to  have  the  key  of  the  outer  door  brought  in  the 
evening  to  the  manager's  house.  He  states  also,  that  "  it  is 
"  usual  on  many  estates,  when  the  negroes  are  in  the  hospital, 
"to  give  them  no  other  food  than  what  their  friends  sup- 

All  this  would  seem  to  make  the  hospital,  or  sick-house,  as 
it  is  more  usually  called,  no  very  desirable  retreat.  Yet,  he 
says,  "  If  your  humanity  disposes  you  to  be  very  indulgent  to 
*'  your  negroes,  or  if  their  labour  be  at  all  severe,  &c.,  your 
"  sick-house  will  probably  be  crowded  with  complainants, 
"some  of  whom  will  be  really  ill,  while  others  only  affect  to 
"  be  so,  either  from  natural  indolence  of  disposition,  or  from 
"  their  having  overslept  themselves,  being  afraid  of  going  to 
"  the  field,  lest  they  should  be  punished  for  the  delay.  It  is 
"  your  business  to  ascertain  from  which  of  these  causes  their 
"  presence  in  the  hospital  arises ;  and  this  is  a  task  of  no  or- 
"  dinary  difficulty ;  as  every  art  will  be  used  to  mislead  and 
"  deceive  you."* 

He  proceeds  to  give  suggestions  as  to  the  best  means  of 
lessening  this  difficulty,  and  therein  observes,  "  You  will  find 
"  others,  who  without  any  illness  to  which  you  can  give  a 
"  name,  have  notwithstanding  a  claim  to  your  indulgence, 
"  for  they  have  been  harassed  by  the  preceding  day's  work, 
"  and  feel  languid  and  exhausted.  This  happens  frequently 
"  to  very  old  negroes,  whose  constitutions  are  not  very  robust, 
**  and  may  happen  to  others,  even  of  the  strongest,  after  great 
"  exertions  and  hard  continued  work  for  too  great  length  of 
*'  time.  You  may  the  more  safely  indulge  them  with  the  sick- 
*'  house,  under  the  assurance,  that  they  will  remain  there  no 
"  longer  than  is  really  necessary  for  their  recovery." 

"  Some  negroes  may  be  really  indisposed,  though  they  are 
"  without  any  of  the  symptoms  which  indicate  indisposition, 
"  but  as  it  is  impossible  for  you  to  judge  with  certainty  in 
"  suqh  cases,  and  as  the  business  of  the  plantation  could  be 
"  veiy  ill-performed,  if  you  were  indiscriminately  to  indulge 

Ibid.  p.  259. 

by  which  Slave  Labour  is  enforced.  239 

"  all  who  prefer  rest  to  labour,  you  must  be  governed  by  the 
"  general  habits  and  reputation  of  the  negro,  &c.  You  may 
"  expect  to  be  often  deceived  ;  but  if  a  man  is  to  to  err,  it 
"  should  be  on  the  side  of  humanity."* 

Those  who  have  ever  allowed  themselves  to  be  deceived  by 
the  impostures  of  other  colonists,  surely  cannot  read  passages 
like  this  without  astonishment.  "  How,"  they  may  reasona- 
ably  exclaim,  **  do  the  planters  attempt  to  reconcile  such  fea- 
"  tures  of  their  system,  with  the  accounts  they  give  us  of  the 
"  lightness  of  slave  labour,  of  the  hilarity  with  which  it  is  per- 
"  formed,  and  of  the  copious  leisure  and  manifest  comforts 
"  and  recreations,  nay  the  dissipation  and  luxury,  which  are 
"  enjoyed  by  the  labouring  slave  ?"  I  answer  they  do  not  at- 
tempt it  at  all.  They  are  too  prudent  to  notice  the  admis- 
sions of  men  of  their  own  party,  whose  credit  they  know  it 
is  in  vain  to  impeach,  especially  such  men  as  Dr.  Collins. 
They  have  a  less  hopeless  game  to  play  ;  like  that  of  the  counsel 
for  a  defendant  in  a  desperate  case,  who  is  too  prudent  to  state 
and  answer  the  evidence  he  has  to  grapple  with,  but  endea- 
vours to  draw  off  the  attention  of  the  jury  from  its  effect  by 
lauding  the  general  character  and  conduct  of  his  client,  and  by 
insidious  imputations  on  the  plaintiff.  They  rely  on  the  inat- 
tention or  forgetfulness  of  the  British  public  in  a  long  and 
wearisome  controversy ;  and  hope,  not  I  fear  in  vain,  that 
bold  generalities  of  assertion,  however  irreconcilable  with  the 
established  facts,  mixed  up  with  incessant  railings  against  their 
opponents,  as  fanatics,  enthusiasts,  and  incendiaries,  will 
supply  the  place  of  sound  or  consistent  argument,  and  fair 

But  those  impartial  minds  who  feel  it  a  duty  in  this  cause 
of  helpless  and  oppressed  multitudes  to  reason  before  they  de- 
cide, will  see  enough  even  in  the  last  extracts  I  have  given,  to 
beat  down  all  the  sophistry,  and  all  the  falsehood  of  their  op- 
pressors ;  for  what  must  be  the  irksomeness  of  that  labour, 
what  the  severity  of  that  discipline,  to  escape  from  which  a 
loathsome  hospital,  and  close  imprisonment,  is  so  cov€ted  an 
asylum,  that  the  slaves  resort  to  falsehood,  and  artful  imposture. 

Ibid.  p.  260,  261,  262. 

240  Of  the  cruel  and  pernicious  Means 

at  the  peril  of  the  cart-whip,  to  obtain  it !  What  must  be 
thought  here  of  the  audacious  comparison  with  the  state  of 
the  free  peasantry  of  England  !  The  wages  of  our  agricultural 
labourers  are  often  lamentably  low,  and  their  comforts  scanty 
enough  ;  but  when  were  they  found  desirous  to  exchange  their 
employment  in  the  field,  to  obtain,  under  the  pretence  of  sick- 
ness, admission  into  our  hospitals,  or  the  parish  workhouses? 
the  worst  of  which  are  most  desirable  abodes  when  com- 
pared to  a  plantation  sick-house. 

What  I  would  chiefly  here  draw  the  attention  of  my  readers 
to,  however,  is  the  admitted  ordinary  difficulty,  and  frequent 
impossibility  of  distinguishing  between  real  and  pretended  in- 
capacity for  labour  ;  and  this  not  by  the  drivers  only,  but  by 
the  proprietor  or  his  manager,  and  even  by  the  medical  prac- 
titioner, called  the  doctor  of  the  estate.  If  it  is  hard  or  im- 
possible for  them  to  determine  in  the  case  of  the  slave  who 
asks  as*'  an  indulgence,"  and  a  boon,  an  exchange  of  the  field 
for  the  hospital,  on  the  score  of  debility  or  disease,  whether 
the  plea  is  well  or  ill  founded,  surely  it  must  be  still  more  out 
of  the  power  of  the  drivers,  to  decide  such  a  question  during 
the  long  protracted  labours  of  the  day,  when  individuals  of 
the  gang  under  their  discipline,  work  with  langour,  and 
allege  bodily  indisposition  as  the  cause,  I  do  not  indeed  find 
it  any  where  alleged  that  the  driver's  authority  extends  to 
the  allowance  of  any  such  excuse,  so  as  to  dismiss  them  from 
the  field.  I  believe  he  has  no  such  power ;  and  as  to  that  of 
sparing  them  in  their  share  of  the  forced  exertions,let  the  reader 
recollect  what  I  have  beforecited  from  the  same  high  authority, 
"  your  drivers,  insensible  of  the  cause  of  their  backwardness,  or 
"  )iot  iveighi)ig  it  properli/,ivill  incessantly  urge  them  ivith  stripes 
"  or  threats  to  keep  up  tcith  the  others,  bj/  trhich  mea)is  thetj  are 
"  overwrought  ami  compelled  to  resort  to  the  sick-house ;"  i.  e.  on 
their  return  to  the  homestall. 

Let  not  the  drivers  bear  unjustly  the  whole  reproach  of  this  in- 
sensibility, for  how  could  they  possibly  distinguish,  if  permit- 
ted to  do  so,  between  real  inability  and  disinclination  for  the  re- 
quisite exertion,  when  it  is  admitted  that  that  the  latter  is  so 
general,  as  always  to  furnish  a  probable  motive  for  dissimulation; 
and  that  the  former  is  frequently  so  well  feigned  as  to  deceive 
the  most  intelligent  and  expert  ?     In  all  probability  it  is  often 

hi)  whkli  S/ave  Labour  is  enforced.  241 

truly  alleged  in  the  field  during  work  by  the  very  individuals 
who  had  been  refused  the  asylum  of  the  sick-house  when 
they  craved  it  from  the  manager  in  the  morning  ;  and  is  the 
driver  to  receive  an  appeal  from  that  judgment?  He  has  a 
certain  force  committed  as  effective  to  his  direction  :  at  his 
own  peril  of  servile  punishment,  the  appointed  work  must  be 
accomplished  by  the  gang ;  and  were  he  to  spare  any  indivi- 
dual who  alleges  incompetency  to  his  proper  share  of  it,  the 
common  task  could  not  be  fully  performed. 

It  is  not  then  to  be  imputed  to  the  drivers,  nor  always  to 
the  overseer  or  manager,  nor  even  to  the  doctor,  if  he  is 
consulted,*  when  a  feeble  or  sick  slave,  is  driven  all  day  long 
to  the  most  arduous  exertions  under  a  tropical  sun,  kept  to  his 
labours  till  raidnip;ht,  and  oblioed  to  resume  them  at  the  ear- 
liest  dawn,  though  all  the  while  diseased  and  exhausted  nature 
is  pleading  earnestly  for  repose.  The  fault  is  inherent  in  the 
unnatural  and  opprobrious  system  of  coercion  itself;  and  could 
no  other  cause  be  assigned  for  the  shocking  waste  of  life  upon 
sugar  estates,  in  a  race  uncommonly  robust  and  prolific,  this 
might  be  enough  amply  to  account  for  it. 

I  might  further  enlarge  on  this  odious  practice  of  driving, 
I  might  shew  by  evidence  equally  beyond  dispute,  its  perni- 
cious effects  on  the  weaker  sex,  especially  in  their  times  of 
pregnancy.  I  might  shew  how  incompatible  it  is  with  all  the 
proper  incentives  to  virtuous  industry,  how  infallibly  it  produces 
an  aversion  to  voluntary  labour,  destroys  every  germ  of  civiliz- 
ation, precludes  advances  in  moral  and  intellectual  character. 

*  Doctor  Collins,  indeed,  censures,  and  not  without  reason,  the  frequent 
conduct  of  medical  practitioners  in  such  cases  :  "  He  (the  doctor)  pops 
"  into  the  hospital  and  questions  the  sick;  when,  if  the  pulse  neither  in- 
"  dicates  fever,  nor  the  frequency  of  evacuations  a  flux,  he  concludes  there 
"  is  no  disorder,  and  the  negro  is  dismissed  to  the  field  ;  yet  even  by  this 
"  attendance,  superficial  as  it  is,  he  earns  dearly  enough  the  slender 
"stipend  that  is  allowed  him.  (p. 254.)  Dearly  indeed!  since  he  must 
"  either  be  the  daily  dupe  of  his  unfortunate  patients,  to  the  ruin  of  his 
"  own  credit  and  practice,  or  risk  the  subjecting  them  by  his  errors  to  un- 
"just  and  cruel,  and  even  to  fatal  effects.  I  have  heard  such  men 
"  complain  of  this  branch  of  their  duty  as  an  intolerable  burthen  on  their 
"  feelings." 

N  OL,   II.  U 

242  Of  the  cruel  and  pernicious  Means,  ^c. 

hardens  the  heart  of  the  master,  and  brutifies  the  slave.     But 

these  topics  may  be  pretty  safely  left  to  the  reflections  of 

every  considerate  reader ;  and  I  ought  not,  without  necessity, 

to  extend  the  limits  of  a  work,  that  is  already,  I  fear,  too 

bulky  for  the  time  and  patience   of  active  and    influential 





Section  I. —  This   Proposition   shewn  to  be  highli/  probable 
from  the  Nature  of  the  Case. 

Having  demonstrated  that  the  forced  labour  on  sugar  es- 
tates is  oppressively  severe,  in  all  the  various  views  I  have 
taken  of  it,  in  its  duration,  its  intensity,  and  the  means  of 
its  exaction,  and  that  the  consequences  are  highly  cruel  and 
pernicious  ;  I  have  next,  in  pursuance  of  the  plan  proposed, 
to  state  "  the  ordinary  treatment  of  the  slaves  in  respect  of 
"  food,  clothing,  and  other  necessaries,  under  the  general  head 
"  of  maintenance  :"  and  first,  as  to  the  most  important  article, 

But  here,  as  in  the  preceding  branches  of  my  subject,  I 
have,  prepossessions  to  encounter,  as  well  as  bold  and  artful 
and  assiduous  misrepresentations  of  the  actual  practice,  to 
refute  ;  I  will,  therefore,  again  request  my  readers  to  reflect 
on  the  inherent  probabilities  of  the  case,  before  I  state  the 
facts  to  them,  and  adduce  the  evidence. 

It  was  shewn  that  the  natural  and  inevitable  tendency  of 
the  master's  avarice  or  selfishness,  armed  with  irresistible 
power,  and  even  of  his  necessities,  consequent  on  the  eager 
competition  that  has  long  prevailed  between  planters,  both 
British  and  foreign,  in  the  supply  of  the  European  markets 
with  sugar,  must  be  to  cheapen  the  forced  labour  era- 
ployed  in  its  production,  to  a  degree  highly  oppressive  upon 

R  2 

244  The  Slaves  art 

the  helpless  enslaved  workmen  by  whom  the  commodity  is 
raised.  From  this  consideration  and  others,  it  was  inferred 
a  priori,  that  the  exaction  of  forced  labour  was  likely  to 
have  been  pushed  to  excess ;  and  I  trust  that  the  inference 
has  now  been  abundantly  confirmed  by  such  evidence  of  the 
fact  as  no  candid  mind  can  resist. 

Now,  the  same  reasoning  tends,  and  with  equal  force,  to 
raise  a  high  probability  that  the  slaves  are  too  penuriously 
maintained :  for  as  the  cost  of  their  maintenance  is  a  deduction 
from  the  annual  proceeds  of  the  estate,  the  lessening  of  this 
must  be  dictated  by  the  same  motives,  or  enforced  by  the 
same  economical  necessity,  as  the  aggravation  of  the  labour. 
Subsistence  has  not  improperly  been  called  "  the  wages  of  the 
"  slave;"  and  a  reduction  in  the  rate  of  wages  is  a  saving 
expedient  at  least  as  likely  to  be  adopted  by  employers  who 
have  power  for  the  purpose,  as  an  increase  in  the  quantum 
of  work.  Where  the  labourers  are  free,  it  is  when  competition 
presses  on  the  master  for  oeconomy,  his  first,  because  his  most 
easy,  if  not  only  resort :  but  even  in  the  treatment  of  slaves, 
it  is  easier  to  withhold  than  to  exact ;  and  especially  when 
the  quantum  of  forced  labour  already  imposed  is  too  great  to 
be  easily  sustained. 

Nor  will  this  argument  lose  any  of  its  force,  if  we  suppose 
the  slave  to  be  chiefly  or  wholly  maintained  in  respect  of 
food,  by  means  of  his  own  labour,  in  raising  provisions  for 
himself;  because  the  time  and  capacity  for  work  allotted  to 
that  purpose,  might  otherwise  be  employed  for  the  master's 
more  direct  and  immediate  profit,  in  the  enlargement  of  his 
crops.  It  will  be  a  perfectly  fair,  as  well  as  the  simplest  and 
clearest,  view  of  the  subject,  to  regard  the  whole  value  of  the 
maintenance,  however  supplied,  as  a  deduction  from  the 
actual  or  potential  proceeds  of  the  estate. 

When  slaves  are  kept  for  the  master's  convenience,  luxury, 
or  state,  not  his  agricultural  or  manufacturing  profit,  there 
is  little  or  no  temptation  to  subject  them  to  any  excess  of 
labour ;  but  only  to  stint  them  in  their  maintenance.  This 
was,  for  the  most  part,  the  case  in  that  slavery  which  is 
noticed  in  the  apostolic  writings  ;  and  we  consequently  find 
a  precept  opposed  to  the  latter  mode  of  oppression,  "  Masters 
give  unto  your  servants  that  which  is  just  and  equal,"  but  no 

very  scatitUy  nudntaincd.  245 

specific  prohibition  of  imposing  on  them  an  undue  quantum  of 
work.  With  the  sugar  planter,  on  the  contrary,  whose  profit 
from  the  labour  of  his  slaves  is  his  sole  object  in  acquiring 
or  keeping  such  property,  the  temptation  to  a  selfish  abuse  of 
power  is  not  only  in  the  withholding  what  is  just  and  equal, 
but  in  pushing  the  forced  labour  to  excess. 

In  one  view,  indeed,  the  planter  may  be  thought  the  most 
likely  to  exceed  on  the  withholding,  or  penurious  side;  es- 
pecially when  money  is  to  be  paid  for  the  articles  of  main- 
tenance that  he  has  to  provide ;  for  avarice  is  often  seen  to 
prompt  men  to  be  sparing  in  their  immediate  pecuniary  dis- 
bursements, even  at  a  great  expence  of  their  future  gains. 

The  sugar  planter's  temptations  on  this  side,  are  much 
enhanced  by  the  great  number  of  slaves  he  has  to  maintain. 
If,  like  English  farmers,  he  had  but  three  or  four  labourers 
constantly  in  employ,  the  difference  between  a  moderate  and 
severe  economy  in  their  subsistence,  might  be  a  saving  little 
worth  his  attention;  but  having  perhaps  two  hundred  ne- 
groes, to  be  fed  throughout  the  year,  the  saving  a  few  pounds 
of  flour  or  grain  in  the  weekly  rations  of  each  individual,  or 
the  labour  of  half  a  day  weekly  in  the  time  allowed  for  raising- 
provisions,  is  felt  by  him  as  an  important  object.  Let  it  be 
supposed  that  four  pounds  of  flour  per  week  ought  to  be 
added  to  the  actual  allowances,  in  order  to  make  them,  in 
a  humane  or  equitable  view,  sufficient;  and  that  this  quantity 
of  imported  flour  would  cost  a  shilling.  If  so,  the  planter 
saves  by  the  present  scantiness  of  his  rations,  ten  pounds 
every  week,  and  no  less  than  five  hundred  and  twenty  pounds 
yjer  annum. 

Can  it  be  thought,  then,  that  the  same  men  who,  whether 
from  avaricious  views,  or  by  the  constraint  of  their  own  ne- 
cessities, have  imposed  on  their  slaves  a  cruel  excess  of  la- 
bour, forcing  them  to  work  on  an  average  sixteen  hours  and 
upwards,  and  often  eighteen  hours  in  the  twenty-four,  and 
depriving  them  in  great  measure  of  their  sabbath  rest,  have 
resisted  the  stronger  and  nearer  temptation  of  saving  large 
sums,  or  gaining  much  exportable  produce,  by  a  too  parsi- 
monious scale  of  subsistence,  or  too  scanty  an  allowance  of 
time  for  raising  it  ? 

No  counterpoise  to  the  temptation  can  be  suggested  in  the 

246  The  Slaves  are 

one  case,  that  does  not  exist  in  the  other,  to  at  least  an  equal 
degree.  As  to  feelings  of  humanity,  these,  while  unspoiled 
by  habitual  violence  done  to  them  in  practice,  might  be  ex- 
pected to  oppose  rather  more  strongly  any  excess  on  the 
exacting,  than  on  the  withholding  side ;  because  the  neces- 
sary means  of  giving  effect  to  the  former,  are  more  actively 
and  manifestly  cruel,  and  more  revolting  to  liberal  minds. 
The  sufferings  of  the  hungry  or  ill-fed  slave  may  not  present 
themselves  to  the  master's  eyes  or  ears ;  but  to  force  from 
him  exertions  beyond  what  his  nature  can  sustain  without 
distress,  the  whip  must  be  ruthlessly  employed. 

It  is  enough,  however,  for  my  present  purpose  to  contend, 
that  where  the  one  species  of  economical  abuse  prevails  in 
a  cruel  degree,  the  other  is  not  likely  to  be  absent ;  and 
having  proved  to  what  a  truly  enormous  excess  the  forced 
labour  of  slaves  is  carried  on  suoar  estates,  I  am  entitled  to 
infer  tbe  great  probability  that  their  maintenance  is  not  li- 
beral ;  but  in  a  high  degree  the  reverse.  "  The  same  fountain 
does  not  cast  forth  at  the  same  time  sweet  waters  and  bitter :" 
nor  can  we  expect  that  the  same  masters  who  covetously  and 
cruelly  overwork  their  helpless  bondsmen,  deal  out  to  them 
with  a  humane  and  liberal  hand,  the  maintenance  which  is 
the  price  of  their  service. 

Having  looked  thus  far  at  the  inherent  probabilities  of  the 
case,  let  us  next  see  what  is  the  extent  of  past  and  present 
controversy  as  to  the  actual  facts  of  it. 

Section  II. —  Extent  of  Co)tlroversy  on  lids  Subject. 

It  was  shewn  in  my  former  volume  (p.  89 — 100),  that  in 
a  very  comprehensive  class  of  ordinary  cases,  the  inadequacy 
of  subsistence  was  put  out  of  dispute,  by  the  express  ad- 
missions of  the  colonists,  the  statements  of  their  assemblies, 
and  the  recitals  of  their  laws.  When  the  planters  are  ne- 
cessitous and  embarrassed  in  their  circumstances,  their  slaves, 
it  was  admitted,  are  not  only  scantily  fed,  but  often  subjected 
to  absolute   want.     Now    a   large  proportion    of   the   sugar- 

oery  scantily  maintained.  247 

planters  are  at  all  times  necessitous    and  embarrassed  ;    as 
was  abundantly  shewn  from  the  same  authorities.* 

It  may  seem  therefore  that  there  can  be  no  question  at  issue 
between  the  colonial  and  anti-slavery  parties  as  to  sufficient 
or  scanty  feeding,  that  is  not  qualified  with  reference  to  the 
master's  circumstances,  or  his  ability  to  provide  an  adequate 
supply  of  food.  But  to  assume  this,  would  be  to  suppose  the 
colonial  party  concluded  by  their  own  admissions  or  state- 
ments; and  held  to  the  vulgar  rule  of  consistency  in  their 
propositions  and  reasonings;  whereas  the  apologists  of  slavery 
seem  to  think  that  the  difficulty  of  their  undertaking  entitles 
them  always  to  play  fast  and  loose  with  their  own  premises, 
and  to  contradict  themselves  and  their  employers  as  to  matters 
of  fact,  and  of  argumentative  deduction  also,  as  often  as  it 
suits  their  purpose.  Many  of  them,  in  this  instance,  notwith- 
standing the  express  admissions  I  have  referred  to,  have 
stoutly  maintained,  and  continue  to  assert,  in  the  most  univer- 
sal and  unqualified  terms,  that  the  slaves  are  abundantly  fed ; 
and  have  even  derided,  as  absurd  and  incredible,  every  con- 
trary statement  by  anti-slavery  writers. 

Should  any  reader,  a  stranger  to  this  new  style  of  contro- 
versy, ask,  "  then  how  do  they  dispose  of  the  testimony  given 
on  their  own  side,  when  quoted  against  them  ?"  I  answer  (as 
before,  in  regard  to  labour,)  by  leaving  it  wholly  unnoticed. 
Like  able  generals  in  the  improved  art  of  war,  they  dash 
forward  for  the  sake  of  immediate  effect,  with  their  full  force  of 
intrepid  assertion  and  abuse,  regardless  of  the  strong  positions 
before  surrendered  by  themselves  or  their  copartizans  which 
the  enemy  holds  in  their  rear. 

Sometimes  they  practice  a  still  more  dexterous  and  daring 
manoeuvre,  of  which  their  professed  reply  to  my  first  volume, 
under  the  name  of  Mr.  Alexander  Barclay,  furnishes  many 
examples.  It  is  to  treat  a  statement  of  their  own  party  when 
cited  against  them,  not  as  a  quotation,  but  as  a  mere  ipsediiit 
of  the  opponent  who  cites  it ;  and  then  give  it  a  bold  contra- 
diction ;  leaving  the  reader  wholly  unaware  that  it  was 
grounded  on  authority  they  were  bound  by,  or  on  any 
evidence  at  all.     By  this  honest  stratagem   it  is   concealed 

*  \'ol.  i.  pp.  89 — 99,  and  Appendix  tliereto,  No.I\^ 

248  The  Slaves  are 

from  the  readers  of  Mr.  Barclay's  work,  that  I  had  cited  in 
proof  of  the  propositions  last  referred  to,  such  high  colonial 
authorities  as  Sir  William  Young,  Mr,  Barham,  Dr.  Collins, 
Mr.  Bryan  Edwards,  the  petitions  of  the  Jamaica  Assembly, 
and  the  Act  of  the  Legislature  of  all  the  Leeward  Islands; 
though  I  not  only  cited  them  all,  but  used  their  very  lan- 
guage, to  shew  the  perennial  prevalence  of  distress  and  ruin 
among  the  planters  of  the  sugar  colonies ;  and  the  sad  effects 
of  the  master's  debts  and  necessities  on  the  subsistence  of 
the  slaves.  My  opponent  has  the  superlative  confidence  to 
treat  the  proposition,  that  the  slaves  suffer  in  those  very  ordi- 
nary cases,  as  if  it  stood  on  my  suggestion  alone ;  next  to 
oppose  to  it  his  own  unsupported  assertions :  and  then  to  rail 
at  me  for  havino;  advanced  so  groundless  a  charge.* 

Having  to  deal  with  such  antagonists,  it  is  not  easy  for  me 
to  say  what  the  limits  of  this  controversy  now  are  ;  what 
points  may  be  taken  as  conceded,  and  what  are  still  in  dispute. 
According  to  all  the  colonial  authorities  cited  in  my  former 
volume,  and  many  more  that  I  could  add  to  them,  I  might 
fairly  assume  as  an  admitted  fact,  that  the  slaves  of  indigent 
and  embarrassed  planters  are  often  "  scanted  in  their  main- 
"  tenance,"  i.  e.  left  ill-clothed,  under-fed,  and  half-starved  ; 
and  it  seemed  that,  in  respect  of  such  cases,  I  had  only  to 
contend,  as  I  did  in  my  former  volume,  that  the  excuse  de- 
rived from  the  master's  necessities  is,  in  its  principle,  unsound. 

This  I  maintained,  and  still  maintain  ;  because  it  is  unjust 
and  inhuman  to  hold  men  in  slavery,  to  work  them  hard,  and 
take  all  the  fruits  of  their  labour,  and  yet  leave  them  in  want 
of  food,  in  order  that  the  master's  debts  may  be  paid,  or  the 
coercion  of  his  mortgagees  prevented  ;  because,  also,  it  is  ad- 
mitted, and  quite  undeniable,  that  the  slaves  could  provide 
sufficiently  for  their  own  subsistence,  if  land  enough  and  time 
enough  were  allowed  to  them  for  the  purpose ;  and  further, 
because  the  colonial  legislatures  might  (as  that  of  the  Leeward 

*  See  my  first  volume  of  this  work,  pp.  89 — 100,  and  tlie  Appendix, 
No.  TV.  and  Mr.  Barclay's  "  Examination"  of  it,  pp.  70 — 74.  Let  any 
reader  who  doubts  whether  such  fraudulent  artifices  as  I  have  here  ascribed 
to  ray  opponents  are  really  and  systematically  practised  by  them,  fairly 
compare  the  two  works  in  the  places  here  referred  to. 

very  sccnitili/  maiiilained.  249 

Islands  did,  though  by  a  law  obsolete  in  practice)  make  the 
expense  of  their  maintenance  a  primary  charge  on  the  produce 
of  their  labours. 

So  I  argued ;  and  the  arguments  are  to  this  hour  un- 
answered. But  now  the  colonists,  by  their  new  champion, 
discard  their  own  former  premises  ;  and,  instead  of  defending 
the  once  acknowledged  case,  or  noticing  the  proofs  of  it  that 
I  cited  against  them,  turn  round  on  me,  and  stoutly  deny  that 
it  has,  or  ever  had,  any  existence.  Let  me  again  place  one  or 
two  of  the  former  admissions  under  the  eyes  of  my  readers,  and 
with  them  these  strange  retractations.  "  Whereas  (said  the 
"  preamble  of  the  meliorating  act  of  the  Leeward  Islands)  many 
'^persons  have  often  been  prevented  from  supplying  their  slaves 
"  with  sufficient  food  andclothing,  by  the  encumbered  state  of  their 
"property;  those  plantations  and  slaves  being  sometimes  charged 
"  with  mortgages  or  other  incumbrances  to  so  great  an  amount  as 
"  to  leave  no  surplus  &jc.  for  the  riecessary  subsistence  of  their 
"  slaves ;  and  merchants  have  been  discouraged  from  selling  pro- 
"  visions  or  clothing  to  persons  in  doubtful  or  embarrassed circum- 
"  stances,  to  the  very  great  distress  and  danger  of  the  slaves,  and 
**  also  to  the  manifest  prejudice  of  mortgagees  or  other  creditors, 
"  whose  securities  may,  in  very  great  measure,  depend  upon  the 
"  lives  or  good  condition  of  such  slaves.''* 

Many  years  later,  and  seven  years  after  the  abolition  of  the 
slave  trade,  the  Council  and  Assembly  of  Antigua  recognized 
in  substance  the  continuance  of  the  same  case  ;  stating  as  an 
excuse  for  the  non-execution  of  a  law,  prescribing  certain  al- 
lowances of  provisions  for  the  plantation  slaves  (a  default 
which  they  were  driven  by  parliamentary  investigations  to  ad- 
mit), that  "  many  proprietors,  though  very  desirous  of  com- 
"  plying  with  the  provisions  of  the  law,  were  prevented  from 
"  so  doing  by  the  unavoidable  difficulties  under  ivhich  they  la- 
"  boured,''  and  "  that  there  were  many  planters  ivho  had  it  not 
"  in  their  power  to  icithhold  any  part  of  the  produce  of  their 
^'  plantations  from  their  creditors."  f 

*  See  Vol.  I.  p.  92,  and  the  Act  itself,  in  papers,  printed  by  order  of  the 
House  of  Commons,  June  8,  1804,  H  24. 

t  See  Vol.  I.  p.  100,  and  Papers  of  July  1'2,  1815,  p.  14'.'. 

'250  The  Slaves  are 

And  what  said  the  assembly  of  Jamaica  ;  an  island  which 
the  authors  of  Barclay's  Practical  View  delight  to  resort  to 
for  their  asserted  facts,  treating  a  defence  of  its  system,  even 
in  points  confessedly  peculiar  to  it,  as  a  sufficient  one  for  all 
the  sugar  colonies  ?  "  It  is  to  save  our  oion  labourers  from 
"  absolute  want  that  ive  solicit  the  interposition  of  our  Sovereign/' 
&,c.  "  Thej/  will  not  be  peisuaded  that  their  masters  are  innocent 
"  of  their  miseries ;  and  their  rage  and  despair  may  involve  our 
*'  country  in  anarchy  and  blood.'" — "  From  the  impossibility  oj 
"  giving  the  usual  comfoiis  to  their  labourers,  all  are  exposed  to 
"  the  eff^ects  of  convulsions,"  &c.  *'  It  is  enough  for  us  to  allude 
"  to  them,  without  opening  up  their  horrors."  Again,  "  The  pro- 
"  prietor  sickens  at  the  additioiud  labour  of  his  people,  while  he  is 
"  unable  to  give  them  the  usual  remuneration  of  their  toil."* 

Such  were  some  of  the  statements,  such  the  painful  con- 
fessions, of  these  legislative  bodies,  which  I  cited  and  relied  on; 
and  Dr.  Collins  was  shewn  to  have  confirmed  them  in  a  way 
the  most  impressive :  for  he  laboured  to  convince  his  unfortu- 
nate brother  planters,  that  it  was  their  duty  to  surrender 
their  estates  to  their  creditors,  when  unable  to  feed  their  slaves 
sufficiently,  rather  than  relieve  themselves  from  their  difficul- 
ties, or  take  the  chance  of  doing  so,  at  the  cost  of"  the  blood  of 
"  their  oicn  species." 

I  certainly  was  of  the  same  opinion  ;  and  thought  moreover 
that  it  was  a  reproach  to  the  colonial  legislatures  to  have  left 
open  that  "  horrid"  alternative,  as  Dr.  Collins  justly  called  it, 
by  not  compelling  the  planters,  in  whatever  circumstances,  to 
give  a  sufficient  maintenance  to  their  slaves,  while  working 
hard  for  their  profit. 

But  we  were  all,  it  seems,  dreaming  of  phantoms  that  had 
no  real  existence !  for  the  colonists  now  assure  us,  by  the  pen 
of  Mr.  Alexander  Barclay,  that  slaves  do  not  suffer  at  all  in 
such  circumstances,  and  from  the  nature  of  the  case  cannot  pos- 
"  sibly  do  so ;"  that  the  mortgagees  are  the  real  proprietors, 
and  would  supply  them  if  the  master  in  possession  could  not ; 
but  that,  in  point  of  fact,  planters,  however  "  miserably  dis- 

*  Ibid.  p.  90,  90,  91,  and  the  original  public  document  there  referred  to, 
being  a  petition  from  the  Jamaica  Assembly  to  the  Prince  Hegent  inl811,&c. 

vnfii  sea II tilt/  mainlaiiied.  251 

"  tressed  themselves,"  never  do  curtail  the  comforts  of  their 
slaves."*  "  Quo  teneam  vnltus,  mutantem  Protea  nodoV — 
To  argue  with  these  opponents  on  their  own  ever-shifting  pre- 
mises, is  like  painting  a  canielion. 

They  are  not  content,  however,  I  repeat,  with  the  privilege 
of  self-contradiction,  even  in  its  most  glaring  forms  ;  but  with 
matchless  assurance,  arraign  of  falsehood  and  defamation  any 
antagonist  who  ventures  to  quote  against  them  such  former 
statements  of  themselves,  their  co-partizans,  or  employers. 
Shamelessly  sinking  the  fact  that  such  quotations  were  made, 
or  any  other  authority  adduced  against  them,  they  ascribe  to 
his  misrepresentation  and  malice  the  very  statements  and  con- 
fessions he  cites.  The  style  in  the  passages  here  referred  to, 
as  in  many  other  instances  of  these  most  disingenuous 
evasions,  is,  "il/r.  Stephe>isaijs,"  "  Mr.  Stephen  himself  acknoiv- 
"  ledges,''  &c.  and  hotv  can  the  mortgages,  as  Mr.  Stephen  says, 
"  affect  the  slaves  so  seriously,"  8cc.  Nay,  the  practical 
remedies  which  I  had  suggested  for  the  often-acknowledged 
mischief,  though  borrowed  from  the  Act  of  the  Leeward 
Islands  itself,  and  recommended  by  me  on  the  authority  of  that 
precedent,  are  characterised  as  "  neiv  attd  dangerous  schemes  and 
"  innovations,  founded  on  ignorance  and  false  assumptions,  and 
"  on  fallacious  theories,  applied  by  enthusiasts  in  England  to  a 
"foreign  communitj/,  of  the  state  of  ivhich  they  are  entirely  ig- 
"  norant."-\ 

If  the  indignation  and  disgust  which  colonial  slavery,  when 
truly  pourtrayed,  must  excite  in  every  liberal  mind,  were 
capable  of  augmentation,  surely  it  would  be  found  in  these 
contemptible  shifts,  and  fraudulent  artifices,  to  which  its 
apologists  are  driven.  X 

*  Barclay's  Practical  View,  &c.  pp.  70 — 74.  f  Ibid.  p.  72. 

X  Let  it  not  be  supposed  that  1  have  selected  this  as  one  of  the  strongest 
specimens  to  be  found  in  this  work  of  Mr.  Barclay,  though  put  forth  and 
widely  circulated  by  the  colonial  party,  and  boasted  of  by  them  as  a  satis- 
flictory  reply  to  my  former  volume.  Let  any  man  select  at  random  from 
his  491  pages  any  one  in  which  my  former  volume  is  referred  to,  and  then 
collate  the  commentary  with  the  text,  and  with  its  immediate  context;  and 
I  will  undertake  to  shew  to  him  either  some  manifest  suppression  or  muti- 
lation of  my  statements  or  arguments,  some  gross  perversion  of  their  mean- 
ing, or  at  least  some  evasion  or  palpable  sophistry  in  the  reply  affected  to 
be  (jiven  to  nie. 

252  The  Slaves  are 

Leaving  such  replies  to  the  understanding  and  feelings  of 
my  readers,  and  resting  on  the  very  authoritative  and  decisive 

By  far  the  largest  part  of  Mr.  Barclay's  Practical  View,  like  the  kindred 
work  of  Mr.  M'Queen,  relates  to  topics  which  I  have  declined  the  discus- 
sion of  in  this  volume,  for  reasons  already  assigned  ;  and  I  have  no  desire 
to  exceed  my  proposed  limits  for  the  sake  of  replying  more  generally  to 
such  antagonists,  who  have  virtually  put  themselves  out  of  the  lists,  by 
violating  every  law  of  legitimate  controversy.  But  among  the  noble  and 
honourable  planters  resident  here,  who  have  made  themselves  responsible 
for  Mr.  B.'s  work,  by  patronizing  it,  at  least,  and  promoting  its  circulation, 
there  are  some,  perhaps,  who  are  more  than  by  profession  friendly  to  the 
})ioral  and  religious  interests  of  their  slaves ;  and  who  may  think  conse- 
quently that,  when  advocating  these,  at  least,  I  ought  not  to  have  been 
unfairly  treated.  I  will  therefore  depart  from  my  general  rule,  so  far  as  to 
ask  whether  they  are  prepared  to  approve  and  abide  by  such  a  disingenuous 
and  evasive  defence  of  their  moral  characters,  in  the  relation  of  slave-owners, 
as  is  to  be  found  in  the  following  extracts. 

In  noticing  a  distinction  between  the  West  India  slave  laws,  and  our  old 
English  law  of  villeinage,  the  former  regarding  the  mother's  servile  state 
as  deciding  that  of  the  children,  the  latter  the  state  only  of  the  father,  I  liad 
remarked  that  if  the  law  of  villeinage  governed  the  case,  the  marriage  of 
slaves  would  have  been  anxiously  promoted,  instead  of  being  discouraged  ; 
because  without  it  no  title  to  the  issue  could^  in  right  of  the  father,  be  made, 
and  being  illegitimate  they  would,  by  the  law  of  villeinage,  be  free  ;  whereas, 
by  the  colonial  law,  the  issue  of  an  unmarried  black  woman,  though  by  a 
white  man,  are  slaves,  and  belong  to  her  master.  I  inferred,  "  that  instead 
"  of  sending  out  and  employing  as  managers,  overseers,  and  book-keepers, 
"  single  men  in  the  heat  of  youth,  and  giving  them  a  range  of  intercourse 
"  among  the  female  slaves,  icnrcstranied  by  disfavour  or  reproach,  and  encou- 
"  raged  by  general  example,  married  men,  or  men  of  strict  morals  or  decent 
"  manners,  at  least,  would  have  been  preferred  for  suck  situations." — Deline- 
ation of  Slavery,  vol.  i.  p.  1 24. 

Now  what  is  Barclay's  answer  to  this  ?  Suppressing  entirely  the  context, 
and  leaving  unnoticed  the  occasion  of  the  stricture,  he  cites,  with  inverted 
commas,  the  first  clause  of  the  above  passage,  omitting  the  words  above 
printed  in  italics  ;  and  says,  "  The  planters,  complains  Mr.  Stephen,  send 
"  out  and  employ  as  managers,  overseers,  and  book-keepers,  single  men 
"  in  the  heat  of  youth,"  as  if  that  had  been  the  only  charge  against  them  ; 
and  then  asks,  "  Can  the  planters  find  married  men  to  go  out  to  the  West 
"  Indies  with  their  families,  or  can  the  planters  be  reasonably  required,  from 
"  apprehension  of  immoral  practices,  to  give  all  their  servants  the  means  of 
"  marrying  and  of  supporting  families  ?  Do  the  masters  in  England,  where 
"  living  is  less  expensive,  act  thus  to  their  servants  ?"  And  there  he  leaves 
the  defence  of  his  honovirable  employers. 

Had  the  quotation  been  fairly  made,  his  readers  would  have  seen  that  not 

rcri/  sc(titlilij  iiutintaiiied.  253 

colonial  testimonies  here  cited  and  referred  to,  I  will  assume  as 
an  established  and  well-admitted  truth,  that  when  the  master 
is  necessitated  and  embarrassed,  i.e.  on  a  large  proportion  of 
sugar  estates,  the  slaves,  though  worked  as  hard  or  harder  than 
ever,  are  often  very  insufficiently  fed  ;  or,  to  use  the  words  of 
that  eminent  planter  and  colonial  champion  the  late  Sir  Wil- 
liam Young,  "  the  pressure  of  mortgages  and  personal  need" 
induce  the  planters  "  to  scant  and  overwork  their  slaves  -y*  or 
the  reader  may  substitute,  if  he  pleases,  the  more  explanatory 
concession  of  Mr.  Bruithwaite,  late  agent  of  Barbadoes  : — 
"  The  allowance  of  corn  to  a  negro  must  depend  on  the  cir- 
*'  cumstances  of  his  master.  If  the  planter  fails  in  his  own 
"  crop  of  corn,  he  must  purchase.  Should  the  price  demanded 
"  be  more  than  he  is  able  to  pay,  his  negroes  must  suffer.  To 
"  a  planter  in  debt  there  may  be  a  fatal  difference  to  his  negroes 
"  whether  corn  is  at  five,  ten,  or  fifteen  shillings  per  bushel ; 
"  as  he  may  have  credit  for  one  hundred  pounds,  but  not  for 
*'  double  or  treble  that  sum."|^ 

Now  what  man  not  inured  to  the  practical  system  can  think 
this  a  defensible  part  of  it  ?  The  labourer  who  is  constrained 
to  work,  and  does  work  most  arduously,  for  the  benefit  of  a 
particular  master,  is  doomed  to  suffer  hunger,  and  in  a  degree 

the  sending  out  young  men,  but  the  allowing  them  to  exercise,  without  dis- 
favour or  reproach,  their  irresistible  power  of  debauching  the  female 
slaves,  to  which  their  youth  and  single  state  must  strongly  dispose  them,  was 
the  gist  of  the  charge  thus  dexterously  evaded  ;  a  charge  made  by  almost 
every  writer  on  one  side  of  this  controversy,  and  admitted  by  every  writer 
on  the  other  who  has  ventured  to  touch  on  the  subject;  being,  in  fact,  too 
notorious  for  contradiction.  But  his  readers  then  would  have  anticipated 
the  reply,  that  his  comparison  with  English  masters  is  preposterous  and 
insulting  ;  that  as  the  managers  are  not  domestic  servants,  no  family  incon- 
venience, but  the  sordid  economies  alone  of  a  sugar-plantation  forbids  their 
marrying ;  that  no  English  landlord  requires  his  steward  or  bailiff  to  live 
unmarried ;  and,  above  all,  that  such  agents  here,  have  no  power  of  con- 
straining, by  the  exercise  of  a  despotic  and  tremendous  power,  the  female 
peasants  on  the  estate  to  gratify  their  libidinous  desires.  There  are  never- 
theless few  masters  among  us,  I  trust,  who  would  suffer  the  seduction  of 
their  female  servants  by  a  bailiff  or  steward  to  pass  uncensured  or  un- 

*  Vol.  I.  p.  95. 

f  Privy  Council  Report,  part  iii.  title  Barbadoes,  2  A,  No.  5. 

254  The  Slaves  are 

that  may  be  fatal  to  his  frame,  because  that  niastei-  is  in  debt, 
and  because  the  whole  marketable  produce  of  the  labour  is 
paid  over  to  his  creditors.  The  slave  is  starved,  to  save  the 
owner  from  a  foreclosure  or  execution  !  If  this  be  right,  or  if 
the  legislators  who  permit  it  are  guiltless,  then  the  infamous 
Mrs.  Brownrigg,  who  was  hanged  in  this  country  for  starving 
her  apprentices,  and  another  wretched  female  who  recently 
suffered  here  for  the  same  crime,  were  perhaps  condemned  very 
unjustly.  Their  excuse  was  probably  not  worse  than  that  of 
the  embarrassed  planters  who  starve  their  slaves ;  unless  neces- 
sitous circumstances  deserve  less  allow^ance  in  a  low  station 
than  in  a  high  one. 

This  species  of  oppression  is  doubtless  the  most  grievous, 
generally  speaking,  on  deeply  encumbered  estates  ;  but  it  is 
not  with  a  view  to  such  cases  alone,  numerous  though  they 
are,  that  I  have  adduced  these  well-established  facts.  They 
evince  clearly,  what  many  on  this  side  of  the  Atlantic  may 
find  it  hard  to  believe,  notwithstanding  the  express  testimony 
on  the  colonial  side  which  I  have  cited,  and  have  still  to  cite. 
They  shew  that,  under  some  circumstances  at  least,  British 
planters  are  capable  of  subjecting  their  hard-worked  labourers 
to  famine,  and  holding  fast  the  chain  of  slavery,  at  the  cost, 
to  repeat  the  strong,  but  just  language  of  Dr.  Collins,  "  of  the 
"  blood  of  their  oicn  species.^'  It  will  therefore  be  the  less 
difficult  to  believe,  that  under  ordinary  degrees  of  tempta- 
tion, the  same  gentlemen  have  reduced  the  maintenance  to  a 
degree  at  which  justice  and  humanity  revolt.  That  this  is 
the  case,  even  under  the  most  ordinary  circumstances,  I  main- 
tain, and  undertake  to  prove. 

Here  the  apologists  of  the  system  and  their  opponents  have 
been  very  widely  at  variance.  Their  general  propositions,  at 
least,  have  been  remote  as  the  north  and  south  poles  from 
each  other.  On  the  one  side,  the  maintenance  has  been 
alleged  to  be  not  only  adequate,  but  liberal ;  on  the  other,  to 
be  in  all  points,  comprising  the  vital  one  of  provisions,  op- 
probriously  scanty  and  sordid.  The  one  party,  as  we  have 
seen,  has  excepted  the  case  of  indigent  owners ;  the  other  not 
even  the  most  affluent. 

But  wide  though  the  controversy  is,  I  trust  to  decide  it  to 

very  scant ih/  mainlained.  255 

the  satisfaction  of  every  impartial  judgment,  by  the  testimony 
of  my  opponents  themselves. 

My  plan  and  means  for  doing  so,  will  be,  first,  to  overthrow 
the  false  case  set  up  on  the  part  of  the  colonies,  by  a  com- 
parison of  the  general  and  very  laudatory  accounts  of  some  of 
their  witnesses,  with  the  less  uncandid  general  accounts  or 
admissions  of  others  ;  and  next,  to  shew  and  establish  the 
true  case,  by  a  collocation  of  the  specific  statements  and  de- 
tails given  by  the  same  and  other  witnesses  and  writers  on  the 
colonial  side,  as  to  the  actual  allowances  of  food  and  other 
necessaries,  periodically  given  to  plantation  slaves  by  their 

Sufficient  specimens  of  the  general  statements  of  my  op- 
ponents are  already  before  my  readers.*  I  need  only  ask 
them  to  remember,  that  those  laudatory  testimonies  applied 
as  strongly  to  the  maintenance  of  the  slaves,  our  present  sub- 
ject, as  to  the  degree  of  their  ordinary  labour,  in  which  I  have 
shewn  them  to  have  been  extravagantly  opposite  to  truth.  I 
will  not  encumber  my  work  with  further  citations  to  the  same 
effect,  though  multitudes  of  them  might  easily  be  given  ;  for 
what  professed  apology  for  slavery  can  we  open,  without  find- 
ing boasts  that  the  unfortunate  subjects  of  that  state  are 
amply,  and  even  superabundantly  maintained?  Many  of  those 
writers  are  not  content  to  stand  on  the  defensive  on  this  point; 
but  actually  seem  to  rely  on  the  alleged  good  feeding,  and  liberal 
maintenance  in  all  respects,  of  these  poor  beings,  as  an  ade- 
quate compensation  for  their  harsh  and  perpetual  bondage. 

That,  in  respect  of  food,  these  pretences  were  in  a  great 
degree  unfounded,  and  opposite  to  truth,  has  already  been 
shewn.  They  were  false,  at  least,  in  predicating  of  the  slaves 
at  large,  that  which  could  be  true  only  of  such  whose  masters 
either  were  not  so  poor  and  embarrassed  as  to  be  under  a 
strong  temptation  to  scant  them ;  or  had  virtue  enough  to 
resist  that  temptation,  by  surrendering  their  estates  to  cre- 
ditors, that  their  slaves  might  be  sufficiently  fed.  How  far 
the  former  description  of  planters  is  from  being  large  enough 
to  characterize  the  general  case,  I  have  enabled  my  readers  to 
judge  ;  and  as  to  the  latter,    I  am  not  aware  of  any  specimen 

*  See  supm,  p.  21  to  23. 

266  The  -S/aves  are 

of  it  that  was  ever  known  or  alleged.  But  even  if  limited  to 
the  practice  of  wealthy  or  prosperous  planters,  those  state- 
ments would  confessedly  require  many  and  wide  exceptions  ; 
for  it  is  admitted,  that  from  other  causes  than  the  master's 
poverty  and  want  of  credit,  viz,  from  his  parsimony,  or  from 
want  of  industry  in  the  slaves  themselves,  (a  pretext  which  I 
shall  hereafter  consider  and  repel,)  these  poor  labourers  are 
often  scantily  fed  ;  aye,  and  to  a  degree  destructive  of  their 
health  and  of  their  lives. 

Dr.  Adair,  an  experienced  West  India  physician,  and  a 
witness  brought  forward  before  the  Privy  Council  Committee 
by  the  agents  of  Antigua,  assigned  as  one  of  the  causes  of 
mortality  and  decline  of  population  among  plantation  slaves 
"  the  scantiness,  and  sometimes  the  bad  qualitij  of  their  food ;'' 
and  added,  for  though  "  industrious  slaves  have  generally  so 
"  many  other  resources  as  (independent  of  their  weekly 
"  allowance)  to  procure  them  not  only  the  necessaries,  but 
"  (to  them)  the  luxuries  of  life,  yet  it  too  frequently  happens, 
'*  that  in  the  distribution  of  provisions  a  proper  distinction  is 
"  not  made  between  them  and  the  indolent  and  thrijtless,  so 
"that  the  latter  by  their  improvidence  are  rendered  tvorth/ess, 
"  and  even  noxious,  bij  habits  of  depredation," 

The  Doctor  added,  "  But  in  barren  soils,  and  during  long 
"  droughts,  when  the  grounds  allotted  to  each  slave  are  not 
"  productive,  even  the  industrious  slave  may  suffer ;  when  a 
"  proper  compensation  is  not  made  by  an  increase  of  the 
"  weekly  allowance,  and  by  giving  them  food  nutritive  and 
"  invigorating,  in  proportion  to  their  labour.  Though  this 
"  distress  may  undoubtedly  sometimes  be  otving  to  inattention, 
"  or  ill-judged  parsimonij,  yet  it  more  frequently  proceeds  fom 
"  real  inability  to  apply  an  adequate  remedy,  from  the  scarcity, 
"  or  bad  quality  of  imported  provision."^ 

Here  we  have  a  clear,  well-attested  fact,  with  a  very  ques- 
tionable, as  well  as  imperfect  excuse.  The  most  industrious 
slave,  i.  e.  he  who  adds  to  the  enormous  tale  of  daily  work  for 
the  master,  every  possible  further  exertion  for  his  own  support, 
may,  and  often  does    suffer  from  hunger  and  inanition,  and 

*  Privy  Council  Repoi't,  title  Antigua,  No.  11. 

mry  scaiitilij  maintained.  257 

consequent  diseases ;  and  this  confessedly  sometimes  through 
the  cruel  parsimony  of  the  master. 

That  want  is  often  the  lot  of"  indolent  or  had  negroes,  idlers, 
or  vagrants,"  Sic.  (terms  which  always,  in  the  plantation 
vocabulary,  comprise  those  who  are  not  hardy  enough  to 
endure  all  the  severities  of  their  state,)  was  virtually  admitted 
by  almost  every  witness,  and  by  some  of  them  in  express 
terms.  "  7'Ae  good  negroes,"  said  Mr.  Douglas,  ''live  in 
"  plenii/  ;  the  vagrants  are  oj'ten  in  want,  and  it  is  impossible  to 
"  prevent  //."* 

It  is  not,  however,  by  these  exceptions  alone,  important  and 
comprehensive  though  they  are,  that  the  statements  I  refer  to 
have  been  impeached.  They  have  been  already  shewn  to 
have  been  since  totally  abandoned  and  retracted  by  the 
colonists  themselves  ;  for  they  related  to  a  time  long  antece- 
dent to  the  abolition  of  the  slave  trade,  subsequent  to  which, 
as  we  are  now  told,  liberality,  kindness,  and  attention  to  the 
preservation  of  the  slaves,  had  their  commencement. 

Whether  the  now  alleged  improvements  are  less  fictitious  in 
respect  of  maintenance,  than  I  have  shewn  them  to  be  in  the 
article  of  labour,  remains  to  be  seen.  In  neither  point  would 
there  have  been  any  need  of,  or  any  room  for  improve- 
ments, if  the  account  with  which  Parliament  was  deluded  in 
1790  had  been  true.  But  it  is  with  the  actual  former  case, 
not  the  fabulous  one,  that  we  must  compare  the  present,  in 
order  to  ascertain  whether  any  improvements  have  been  really 
made;  and  it  is  important,  in  other  views  also,  to  shew  in 
every  branch  of  my  subject,  to  what  an  extent  the  mother 
country  was  deceived  by  the  colonists,  as  to  the  true  nature  of 
a  system  which  she  is  alleged  to  have  concurred  in,  and  to  be 
bound,  at  theexpenceof  her  purse  and  her  conscience,  to  uphold. 

I  will  not  therefore  be  content  with  falsifying  the  general 
proposition,  that  the  slaves  were  liberally  and  abundantly  fed  : 
I  will  shew  in  detail  the  shameful  reverse  ;  but  will  first  op- 
pose to  it  colonial  testimony  of  a  general  kind,  in  reference  to 
the  time  of  that  assertion,  as  well  as  to  a  later  period. 

No  evidence  to  that  purpose  can  be  more  impressive  than 
the  statements  and   remarks   of  Dr.  Collins,   written   several 

*  Commons'  Report  of  1790,  p.  -289. 
VOL.    II.  S 

258  The  Slaves  are 

years  after  the  latest  date  of  the  parliamentary  evidence. 
There  is  hardly  a  paragraph  in  his  whole  chapter  on  diet  which 
I  might  not  here  use  with  advantage  ;  and  I  regret  that  the 
whole  is  much  too  long  for  insertion  :  but  I  desire  the  reader's 
particular  attention  to  the  following  extracts. 

In  reasoning  anxiously  to  persuade  his  brother  planters  of 
the  West  Indies  at  large,  to  be  more  liberal  in  their  allow- 
ances of  food,  he  urges  their  own  self-interest,  in  "  the  greater 
"  labour  which  a  well-fed  negro  is  capable  of  executing,  in 
"  proportion  to  one  who  is  half-starved,  and  in  his  exemption 
**  from  disease,  and  its  possible  consequence,  death  ;  for  I 
"  avow  it  boldly,"  he  adds,  "  melancholy  experience  having 
"  given  me  occasion  to  make  the  remark,  that  a  great  number  of 
"  negroes  have  perished  annually  by  diseases  produced  by  inani- 
"  tion.  To  be  convinced  of  this  truth,  let  us  trace  the  effect 
"  of  that  system  which  assigned  for  a  negro's  weekly  allow- 
"  ance  six  or  seven  pints  of  flour  or  grain,  with  as  many  salt 
"  herrings,  and  it  is  in  vain  to  conceal,  what  we  all^  knoio  to  be 
"  true,  that  in  many  of  the  islands  they  did  not  give  more. 

"  With  so  scanty  a  pittance,  it  is  indeed  possible  for  the  soul 
"  and  body  to  be  held  together  for  a  considerable  portion  of 
"  time,  provided  a  man's  only  business  be  to  live,  and  his 
"  spirits  be  husbanded  with  a  frugal  hand  ;  but  if  motion 
"  short  of  labour,  much  more  labour  itself,  and  that  too  in- 
"  tense,  be  exacted  from  him,  how  is  the  body  to  support 
"  itself?  What  is  there  to  thicken  and  enrich  the  fluids  — 
"  what  to  strengthen  the  solids,  to  give  energy  to  the  heart, 
"  and  to  invigorate  its  pulsations  ?  Your  negroes  may  crawl 
"  about  with  feeble,  emaciated  frames ;  but  they  will  never 
"  possess,  under  such  a  regimen,  that  vigour  of  mind  and  tone 
"  of  muscles  which  the  service  of  the  plantation  demands. 
'*  Their  attempts  to  wield  the  hoe  prove  abortive  ;  they  shrink 
"  from  their  toil ;  and,  being  urged  to  perseverance  by  stripes, 
"you  are  soon  obliged  to  receive  them  into  the  hospital; 
"  whence,  unless  your  plan  be  speedily  corrected,  they  depart 
"  but  to  the  grave.* 

Is  it  an  anti-slavery  writer,  an  enemy  to  the  colonies,  (as  my 
opponents  call  every  advocate  for  the  poor  slaves,)  that  writes 

*  Practical  Rules,   87,  88. 

verij  scinitilij  mai/itaiiied.  259 

thus?  or  is  it  a  man  ignorant  of  the  system,  and  prejudiced 
against  it?  No  ;  it  is  a  very  eminent  long-experienced  West 
India  planter  and  physician,  who  had  resided  more  than 
twenty  years  in  the  West  Indies,  and  who,  even  in  this  work, 
was  an  apologist  not  only  of  slavery  but  the  slave  trade.  He 
it  is,  who  avows  the  horrible  truth  that  great  numbers,  every 
year,  of  these  wretched  fellow-creatures,  while  working  in- 
tensely for  the  profit  of  their  masters,  are,  by  their  sordid  and 
cruel  parsimony, killed  through  inanition  ;  i.e.  slowly  starved 
to  death. 

"  It  may  possibly  be  urged  in  palliation  of  this  practice, 
"  (adds  Dr.  Collins)  that  in  cases  of  such  short  allowance 
"  as  I  have  mentioned  above,  negroes  do  not  depend  upon 
"  that  solely  for  their  subsistence  ;  but  that  they  derive  con- 
"  siderable  aid  from  little  vacant  spots  on  the  estate,  which 
"  they  are  allowed  to  cultivate  on  their  own  account.  Though 
"  frequently  otherwise,  this  may  sometimes  be  the  case  ;  yet 
"  even  there,  it  is  to  be  observed  that  such  spots  in  the  low- 
"  land  plantations  are  capable  of  producing  only  for  a  part  of 
"  the  year ;  either  through  the  drought  of  the  season  or  the 
"  sterility  of  the  soil ;  and  when  that  happens,  the  negro  is 
*'  again  at  his  short  allowance  ;  and,  having  no  honest  means 
"  of  ekeing  it  out  to  make  it  square  with  the  demands  of 
"  nature,  he  is  compelled  to  pilfer.  His  first  depredations  are 
"  directed  to  canes,  which  are  nearest  at  hand,  and  abound 
''  with  a  sweet  and  nutritious  juice.  For  the  purpose  of  con- 
"  cealment  he  penetrates  into  the  cane  piece,  &c.  He  next  ex- 
**  tends  his  ravages  to  substances  more  solid,  and  robs  your 
"  poultry  yard,  &c.  Is  there  any  thing  extraordinary  in  all 
"  this  ?  Far  from  it ;  such  conduct  is  perfectly  natural,  I  was 
"going  to  say  justifiable:  yet  when  the  delinquent  is  de- 
"  tected  and  apprehended,  he  is  severely  whipped,  and  chain- 
"  ed,  and  confined.  But  neither  chains,  nor  stripes,  nor  con- 
"  finement  can  extinguish  hunger.  The  first  moment  of  his 
"  release  he  returns  to  the  same  practices,  and,  dreading  a 
**  similar  punishment,  on  the  apprehension  of  discovery,  he 
*'  absconds  into  the  canes,  the  woods,  or  among  the  negroes 
"  of  some  distant  plantation,  where  he  remains  concealed, 
"  until  being  at  length  ferretted  out  by  rewards  and  re-taken, 
"  he  undergoes  a  repetition  of  the  same  discipline,  which  co- 

s  2 

260  The  Slaves  are 

"  operating  with  scanty  nourishment,  and  with  colds  con-^ 
*'  tracted  by  exposure  to  the  weather  during  his  desertion,  it 
"  is  ten  to  one  but  he  falls  into  a  distempered  habit,  which 
**  soon  hurries  him  out  of  the  world. 

"  Now  this  was  set  down  as  a  vicious  incorrigible  subject, 
"  and  his  death  is  deemed  a  beneficial  release  to  the  estate  : 
"  but  if  we  consider  the  matter  more  closely,  we  shall  see 
"  reason  to  suspect  that  the  offences  of  this  unfortunate  slave 
"  did  not  arise  so  much  from  his  natural  bad  disposition,  as 
"  from  the  misery  of  his  situation,  and  the  misconduct  of  his 
"  master,  who  has  in  fact  been  his  murderer,  by  withholding 
"  from  him  a  subsistence  equal  to  the  demands  of  nature,"  &c. 
"  The  truth  is,  being  reduced  to  the  alternative  either  of 
"  starving  or  stealing,  he  embraces  the  latter,  only  as  the  least 
"  evil  of  the  two  ;  and  thus  provides  for  his  stomach  at  the 
"  expence  of  his  posteriors.  Some  negroes,  however,  either 
"  of  more  timorous  complexions,  who  out  of  I'espect  to  their 
"  skins  hold  a  cart-whip  in  abhorrence,  or  who,  having  a 
*'  greater  faculty  of  fasting,  resist  better  the  impulses  of  ap- 
"  petite,  struggle  on  with  their  short  fare,  until  impoverished 
"  nature,  manifesting  itself  in  the  shape  of  some  visible  dis- 
"  order,  gives  them  a  title  to  the  sick-house,  where  they  are 
"  indulged  with  all  the  facilities  in  the  world  to  die." 
(p.  90,  91.) 

After  such  extracts,  it  may  be  thought  that  my  undertaking 
to  shew  from  authenticated  details,  what  the  ordinary  main- 
tenance specifically  was  and  is,  so  far  as  respects  provisions, 
might  have  been  spared ;  but  as  the  subject  is  of  vast  im- 
portance to  the  interests  of  humanity,  and  as  a  full  explana- 
tion of  the  practice  will  throw  much  light  on  the  sordid 
character  of  plantation  economy  in  general,  and  expose  the 
gross  impostures  that  have  been  used  in  its  defence,  I  must 
adhere  to  that  part  of  my  plan. 

Section  III. — Different  modes  of  feeding  the  slaves  in 
different  colonies. 

Here   1  must  remind   my  readers  of  a  distinction  formerly 
made  between   two  different  classes  of  sugar  colonies,  which 

very  sca/iti/i/  maintained.  261 

vary  materially  from  each  other  in  their  ordinary  modes  of 
slave  subsistence. 

Upon  most  estates  in  Jamaica,  and  many  in  those  wind- 
ward islands  which  are  sometimes  called  the  new  or  ceded 
colonies,  the  slaves,  for  the  most  part,  depend  for  their  food 
on  the  produce  of  provision-grounds,  allotted  to  them  indivi- 
dually, and  cultivated  by  each  slave  on  his  or  her  own  ac- 
count, on  the  Sunday,  and  at  such  other  portions  of  daily  or 
weekly  time  as  may  be  left  at  their  own  disposal  after  the 
master's  enormous  demands  for  their  labour  in  the  cane 
pieces,  and  at  the  sugar  works,  are  satisfied.  But  in  the  Lee- 
ward Islands,  comprising  Antigua,  St.  Christopher,  Montser- 
rat,  Nevis,  and  Tortola,*  the  slaves  are,  generally  speaking, 
and  on  many  estates  exclusively,  fed  by  provisions  imported  or 
bought  by  the  master,  and  served  out  to  them  in  weekly 
rations ;  the  cultivatable  lands  there  being  so  fully  occupied  in 
cane  planting,  and  so  subject  besides  to  long  droughts,  (which 
are  destructive  to  native  provisions,  much  more  than  to  the 
hardy  and  succulent  sugar  cane)  that  there  are  either  no  suffi- 
cient allotments  of  land  to  spare  for  the  slaves,  or  none  that 
can  be  depended  on  for  their  support.  The  former,  for  brevity 
sake,  I  will  call  the  home-fed,  and  the  latter  the  foreign-fed 

Barbadoes  is  of  a  middle  character ;  the  slaves  being  fed  by 
rations  from  the  master's  stores,  but  chiefly  on  provisions 
grown  on  his  account,  and  cultivated  by  the  compulsory 
labour  of  the  gang  at  large  ;  and  I  understand  the  same  to  be 
the  general  practice  in  Demerara  and  Berbice. 

It  is  further,  however,  necessary  to  premise,  for  the  clearer 
apprehension  of  some  of  the  evidence  I  have  to  adduce,  that 
even  in  the  foreign-fed  colonies,  we  hear  of  the  negroes'  pro- 
vision grounds,  often  dignified  by  the  name  of  gardens;  be- 
cause on  many  upland  plantations,  there  are  ridges  of  land 
between  the  cane  pieces  and  the  wooded  mountain-tops,  too 
sterile  and  steep  for  sugar  culture,  or  for  any  other  purpose 

*  Many  estates,   however,  in    Tortohi,  have  provision-grounds  that  are 
allotted  to  the  slaves  for  their  support. 

262  The  Slaves  are 

than  allotments  to  the  slaves  for  what  are  called  mountain 
provision-grounds ;  and  which,  from  their  great  altitude  and 
the  adjacency  of  the  woods,  are  less  subject  to  drought  than 
the  lands  below.  On  the  lowland  estates  also,  there  are  com- 
monly "gi</  sides,''  i.e.  the  steep  borders  of  wash  courses, 
and  other  broken  bits  of  land  unfit  for  cane-planting,  which 
the  slaves  of  course  are  allowed  to  make  such  use  of  as  a  few 
of  them  are  able  to  do.  There  are  also  commonly  a  few 
square  yards  of  vacant  ground  dividing  the  negro  huts, 
which  the  occupiers  may  plant  if  they  please  ;  but  which 
generally  serve  only  for  yards  and  passages  between  the  hut^. 
A  calabash  tree,  from  which  the  culinary  and  other  vessels  of 
the  slaves  are  supplied,  or  some  other  tree,  is  sometimes  seen 
there,  and  sometimes  a  few  wild  plantains  or  bananas, 
which,  when  intermixed  with  the  huts,  give  the  group  a 
pretty  appearance  at  a  distance;  but  those  arid  little  spots 
furnish  in  no  degree,  or  a  most  minute  one  at  best,  any  arti- 
cles of  food. 

All  these  petty  portions  of  soil  collectively,  where  there 
are  no  mountain  provision-grounds,  are  capable  of  con- 
tributing in  so  very  trivial  a  degree  to  the  support  of  the 
gang  at  large,  and  the  attempts  of  the  few  individuals 
who  endeavour  to  raise  articles  of  food  from  them,  are  so 
often  wholly  frustrated  by  droughts,  that  in  an  estimate  of 
the  general  means  of  subsistence,  they  may  fairly  be  thrown 
out  of  the  account.  They  have  been  so  indeed  by  such  laws  of 
the  Leeward  Islands,  as  regulate  the  allowances  of  food  by  the 
masters ;  and  even  by  the  more  candid  of  the  colonial  wit- 
nesses and  writers.  Nor  are  the  mountain  provision-grounds 
in  those  colonies  a  resource  of  much  importance;  except  on  a 
very  few  estates,  where  from  local  circumstances  they  are 
more  accessible,  and  more  productive  than  common.  In  ge- 
neral, they  make  such  small  returns  of  the  inferior  articles 
of  food  they  yield,  and  cost  such  of  the  slaves  as  are  able 
to  cultivate  them  so  much  fatigue  and  detriment  to  their 
health,  from  exposure  to  the  chill  air  and  drizzling  rains  of 
the  mountains,  and  from  the  temptation  to  eat  their  produce 
before  it  is  ripe,  that  I  have  heard  it  disputed  as  a  doubtful 
question    between  experienced    planters    in    St.  Christopher, 

very  scantily  maintained.  263 

whether  the  possession  of  them  is,  on  the  whole,  any  advan- 
tage whatever  to  an  estate. 

For  these  general  distinctions,  like  the  rest,  I  subjoin  some 
authorities ;  in  pursuance  of  my  ordinary  plan  to  leave  no- 
thing that  I  state  notorious,  though  its  truth  may  be  un- 

*  "  Jamaica  and  some  of  the  ceded  islands  feed  their  negroes  at  less  ' 
*'  expence  than  the  Leeward  Islands,  because  they  have  great  tracts  of  land 
"  which  are  wholly  devoted  to  raising  provisions  for  their  negroes,  which  is 
"  not  the  case  in  the  latter,  where,  in  general,  the  subsistence  of  the  negroei 
"  depends  on  articles  of  food  imported."  (Evidence  of  Mr.  Spooner,  agent 
for  Grenada  and  St.  Christopher.     Privy  Council  Report,  A.  No.  7.) 

"  The  estates  in  the  old  windward  islands,  are  not,  in  general,  of  above 
"  one  half  the  extent  they  are  in  the  ceded  islands.  They  are  of  course 
"  worse  appointed  in  provision-grounds;  and  as  the  climate  of  these  islands 
"  is  much  more  uncertain,  vert/  little  dependanct  can  he  placed  on  their  sea- 
"  S071S  ;  therefore  it  is  not  above  one  year  in  three  that  their  provisions  an- 
^'' swerJ'  (Evidence  of  James  Baillie,  Esq.  Commons'  Report  of  1790, 
p.  203.) 

Privy  Council  Query,  A.  No.  .5.  "Are  negro  slaves  fed  at  their  master's 
*'  expence,  or  by  their  own  labour  ?  and  when  fed  by  their  masters,  with 
"  what  are  they  fed,  and  in  what  quantities  ?" 

Extract  of  the  Answer  of  the  Council  and  Assembly  of  Nevis.  "  Negroes 
*'  are  fed  at  the  expence  of  the  master.  The  articles  of  their  food  are  flour, 
"  pease,  beans,  oatmeal,  Indian  corn  or  Guinea  corn,  together  with  salt 
"  provisions."     N.B.  None  of  these  articles  are  raised  in  the  island. 

Extract  of  the  Answer  of  the  Council  and  Assembly  of  Antigua.  "  Negro 
"  slaves  are  universally  fed  in  this  island,  at  their  master's  expence,  with 
"  Indian  corn,  beans,  rice,  flour,  yams  and  potatoes,  they  have  likewise  a 
"  number  of  salted  herrings  or  salted  fish,  with  a  quantity  of  dried  salt  al- 
"  lowed  them." 

The  answers  from  Montserrat  were  nearly  to  the  same  effect.  All  these 
answers  add,  as  will  be  presently  shewn,  the  quantities  of  ordinary  allow- 
ance by  the  master,  and  also  mention  the  small  pieces  of  ground  or  gar- 
dens allotted  to  the  slaves,  and  their  asserted  power  of  adding  to  their 
subsistence  by  means  of  them,  and  by  other  voluntary  labours  ;  but  it  would 
be  premature  to  cite  in  this  place  more  than  is  necessary  to  shew  the  gene- 
ral dependance,  in  those  islands,  on  imported  food. 

"  In  Grenada  we  gave  no  provisions  to  a  healthy  slave,  (except  herrings 
^'  or  salt  fish)  without  their  own  provision-grounds  should  fail  them.  Ne- 
"  groes  are  fed  differently  on  different  islands.  In  Grenada,  where  the 
"  estates  are  large  and  have  a  great  deal  of  new  ground,  it  has  universally 
"  been  the  custom  to  allot  so  much  land  to  each  negro,  for  himself,  his 
"  wife,  and   children,  as  was   thought  sufficient   to   maintain   them."  &c. 

264  Of  the  Snhsislence 

Section  IV. — Of  the  mode  and  measure  of  subsistence  in  the 
home-fed  colonies. 

It  is  obvious  that  where  the  subsistence  of  the  slaves  is 
wholly  or  chiefly  derived  from  the  produce  of  provision 
grounds  allotted  to  them  individually,  and  cultivated  by  what 
may  be  called,  though  improperly,  their  voluntary  labour, 
the  actual  ordinary  quantity  of  their  daily  or  weekly  food 
cannot  be  clearly  ascertained.  It  must  depend  on  a  variety 
of  different  circumstances ;  such  as  the  extent  and  quality  of 
the  land  allotted  to  them,  its  position  in  respect  of  proximity 
to,  or  remoteness  from  their  huts,  or  the  cane-pieces  on  which 
they  work,  the  period  of  the  year,  and  the  kind  of  weather 

(Evidence  of  Alexander  Campbell,  Esq.  Commons"  Report  of  1790-, 
p.  141.) 

But  even  in  some  of  the  Iiome-J'ed  colonies,  the  planters,  either  from  a 
topical  scarcity  of  provision  grounds,  or  dislike  to  spare  time  enough  for 
their  culture,  often  take  the  feeding  of  their  slaves  on  themselves  ;  supplying 
them  either  with  imported  grain  and  flour,  or  with  native  provisions  raised 
by  other  planters,  or  on  their  own  estates  upon  the  master's  account. 

"  In  Burhadoes  (said  Mr.  Braithvvaite,  agent  for  that  island,)  they  have 
"  a  constant  allowance  of  food  from  their  masters.  Their  food  is  Guinea 
"  or  Indian  corn  raised  in  the  country,  and  ground,  at  their  master'sexpence  ; 
"  and  ground  provisions  such  as  plantains,  yams,  potatoes.  Besides  this 
"  they  have  maize,  rice  and  salted  provisions  imported."  (For  the  rest  of 
his  answer,  see  supra,  p.  244.) 

"  The  custom  with  respect  to  the  feeding  of  slaves  (said  the  Governor  of 
"  St.  Vincent,)  differs  upon  different  estates.  In  general  they  are  fed 
"  partly  by  their  own  labour,  and  partly  by  the  assistance  of  their  mas- 
"  ters,"  &c.  (Evidence  of  Governor  Seton  of  St.  Vincent,  Privy  Council 
Report,  St.  Vincent  Q.  A.  No.  5.)  "  Upon  some  plantations  they  are  fed 
"  almost  entirely  with  ground  provisions  the  produce  of  their  own  labour." 
(Ibid.  A.  No.  7.) 

"  The  slaves  are  fed  at  the  expence  of  the  owners  in  general,  except  in 
"  some  cases  where  time  is  given  to  them  in  lieu  of  food,  to  work  for  them- 
"  selves  in  cultivating  the  grounds  furnished  to  them  by  their  owners ; 
"  which  Creoles  and  other  slaves,  having  been  long  in  the  country,  usually 
"  prefer.  (Same  Report,  Dominica,  Q.  A.  No.  .5.  Evidence  of  Messrs. 
Bruce,  Gillon,  and  Eraser.) 

in  the  Home-fed  Colonies.  265 

that  has  preceded,  as  being  favourable  to  vegetation  or  the 
reverse  ;  and  above  all  on  the  quantum  of  time  allowed  by 
the  master,  and  what  is  called  the  industry  of  the  slave,  or 
more  truly  speaking,  his  capacity  in  point  of  bodily  strength 
to  work  more  or  less  on  his  provision  ground,  in  addition  to 
his  forced  labour  under  the  drivers. 

To  find  a  medium  quantity  among  all  these  diversities,  of 
the  food  actually  obtained  in  the  home-fed  colonies,  is  mani- 
festly impossible.  It  would  be  so,  even  if  the  evidence  I 
have  restricted  myself  to  had  been  candid  and  impartial ; 
for  a  planter  himself  could  hardly  furnish  the  necessary  data, 
even  from  his  own  particular  estate.  It  is,  therefore,  chiefly 
in  respect  of  the  J'u7-eig]i -Jed  colonies,  that  I  shall  be  able  to 
establish,  by  clear  and  direct  testimony,  the  ordinary  scale 
of  subsistence  ;  and  to  shew  from  them  its  great  inadequacy 
when  the  slave  depends  wholly  or  chiefly  on  rations  served 
out  to  him  by  the  master.  There,  also,  the  food  is  often 
of  a  kind  the  nutritive  value  of  which  we  can  in  great 
measure  estimate  upon  data  familiar  to  my  readers ;  whereas 
some  species  of  the  indigenous  provisions  which  constitute 
the  food  of  the  slaves  when  raised  by  themselves,  are  known 
to  us  only  by  name. 

I  must  be  content,  then,  to  prove,  in  respect  of  the  home-fed 
colonies,  from  circumstantial  evidence,  and  by  inferences  from 
acknowledged  facts,  that  the  subsistence  is,  at  least  very  often, 
and  in  some  comprehensive  cases,  greatly  deficient ;  and  to 
shew  a  high  probability  that  its  ordinary  amount  is  much 
less  than  justice  and  humanity  require. 

This  has  already  in  some  measure  appeared  from  quotations 
I  have  given,  especially  from  the  authority  of  Dr.  Collins  in 
his  truly  valuable  work  •*  for  his  strictures  were  not  confined 
to  the  practices  of  the  foreign-fed  colonies  ;  and  St.  Vincent, 
which  was  probably  prominently  in  his  view,  because  his 
property  and  long  residence  had  been  there,  was  one  where 
home-feeding  chiefly  prevailed.  The  master's  allowances  or 
rations,  which  he  describes  as  so  scanty,  were  partially  and 
occasionally  in  use  in  that  island,  as  they  were   also  in   other 

Supra,  p.  258,  9,  Sec. 

26(j  Of  the  Subsist ettce 

home-fed  colonies  ;  for  many  plantations  in  them,  as  we  have 
seen,  have  no  provision-grounds ;  and  even  in  the  most  sea- 
sonable places,  those  grounds  sometimes  fail  from  droughts, 
hurricanes,  and  other  causes.*  If,  therefore,  I  shall  be  able 
to  shew  that  when  the  planter  in  such  cases  feeds  his  slaves 
wholly  from  allowances,  his  standard  of  sufRciency  is  not  less 
scanty  and  sordid  than  that  of  the  foreign-fed  colonies,  it 
will  afford  a  fair  inference  that  his  allotments  of  provision- 
grounds,  and  of  time  for  their  culture  are  not  regulated  by 
more  liberal  feelings.  It  appears  clearly,  from  Dr.  C.'s  advice 
and  strictures  as  to  feeding  in  general,  that  he  included  in 
his  views  colonies  in  which  the  home-feeding  system  was  at 
least  partially  in  use ;  and  that  in  them  the  method  of  feeding 
by  weekly  rations  was  often  preferred  by  the  choice  of  the 
masters ;  for  he  takes  pains  to  persuade  them  that  the  former 
is  more  beneficial  to  themselves  ;  "  When  the  estate  from  its 
"  extent,  or  the  quality  of  its  soil  or  situation,  will  admit  of 
"  it,  certain  portions  of  ground  should  be  allotted  to  the 
"  negroes  to  plant  with  provisions,  instead  of  giving  them  a 
"  weekly  allowance  ;  and  this  is  undoubtedly  the  best  way 
"  of  providing  for  their  wants  if  thej/  are  duly  superintended 
"  in  the  culture  of  their  grounds,"  &,c.  (p.  100.) 

He  explains  how  intimate  and  particular  that  superintend- 
ance  ought  to  be  ;  and  adds,  that  without  it  "  the  provision 
"grounds  will  be  found  very  much  neglected,  and  the  negroes 
"  as  much  at  a  loss  for  provisions  as  if  they  had  no  ground 
"  at  all." 

He  holds  it  indispensably  necessary  in  order  to  prevent 
this,  that  one  afternoon  in  each  week,  besides  the  Sunday, 
should  be  set  apart  for  the  culture  of  the  provision-grounds  ; 
and  that  the  employment  of  it  should  not  be  trusted  to  the 
slaves  themselves ;  but  that  immediately  after  the  dinner  hour 

*  See  the  authorities  quoted  above,  p.  263.  "  Hurricanes  occasion  such 
"  a  temporary  scarcity  of  provisions  as  approaches  nearly  to  a  famine.  In 
"  the  islands  which  have  been  visited  with  this  scourge,  every  production 
"  is  swept  from  the  face  of  vegetable  nature,  and  that  which  the  earth  in 
"  part  conceals  from  its  researches,  is  yet  so  much  injured  as  to  be  capa- 
"  ble  of  being  preserved  only  for  a  very  short  time."  (Collins,  114.) 

in  the  Home-fed  Colonies.  267 

and  grass-throwing,  the  Ust  being  called,  they  should  be 
accompanied  to  the  grounds  not  only  by  the  drivers,  but  the 
overseer,  who  should  walk  round  all  the  allotments,  directing 
his  attention  to  each,  and  seeing  every  slave  properly  em- 
ployed on  his  or  her  proper  ground ;  and  afterwards,  by  a  se- 
cond visit  to  each  allotment,  ascertain  that  proper  use  has 
been  made  of  the  time  by  each  individual,  and  bestow 
praise  or  rebuke  accordingly.  After  all,  he  admonishes  the 
proprietor  or  chief  manager,  that  he  must  not  trust  implicitly 
to  the  information  or  reports  of  the  overseer  ;  but  must  him- 
self acquire  a  knowledge  of  the  several  allotments,  and  their 
respective  owners,  and  visit  them  from  time  to  time  to  ascer- 
tain the  truth  of  the  reports  by  the  evidence  of  his  own  senses ; 
for  he  adds,  "  that  there  is  no  part  of  the  overseer's  duty 
"  that  he  is  more  apt  to  neglect  than  this  ;  though  nothing 
"  can  be  more  essential  to  the  health  and  welfare  of  the 
"  gang,  who  can  no  otherwise  obtain  an  abundant  supply  of 
"  provisions  than  by  a  diligent  culture  of  their  grounds." 
(p.  102,  3.) 

Now,  if  we  consider  how  very  onerous  these  duties  must 
be  on  the  overseers  and  managers,  we  might  have  well  in- 
ferred, without  the  express  testimony  of  this  experienced 
planter,  that  they  are  in  general  left  unperformed  ;  and  the 
self-fed  slaves  consequently  often  exposed  to  a  distressing 
scarcity  of  provisions. 

Let  it  not,  however,  be  supposed  that  all  this  laborious 
superintendance,  and  a  right  application,  in  consequence,  of 
the  weekly  afternoon,  would,  in  Dr.  Collins's  judgment,  suf- 
fice. He  plainly  enough  admits  that  Sabbath  work  must 
be  superadded,  though  he  felt  it  not  right  to  recommend  for 
that  day  the  like  means  of  coercion  ;  for  he  adds,  "  1  say 
"  nothing  of  Sunday :  that  being  a  day  of  rest  or  recreation, 
"  they  have  a  right  to  dispose  of  it  as  they  think  proper ;  but  as 
"  they  cannot  be  more  innocently  or  beneficially  employed  than 
"  on  their  provision-grounds,  every  encouragement  should  be 
"  held  out  to  them  to  apply  their  time  in  that  way,  by  slight 
"  rewards  or  honorary  distinctions,  which,  if  conferred  upon  such 
' '  as  comply  with  your  wishes,  may  induce  others  to  follow  their 
"  example."  (p.  104,  5.) 

Such  precepts  from  an   apologist  of  slavery,   may  surprise 

268  Of  the  Subsistence 

those  who  have  listened  to  the  recent  tales  of  the  planters  ; 
but  the  day  of  religious  hypocrisy  was  not  then  arrived  ;  the 
policy  of  seducing  from  the  cause  of  the  poor  negroes  their  na- 
tural allies,  by  persuading  the  pious  part  of  the  public  that  the 
interests  of  Christianity  might  be  reconciled  with  avaricious 
despotism  and  a  brutalizing  bondage,  had  not  yet  been  adopt- 
ed ;  and  the  systematic  desecration  of  the  Sabbath,  even  by 
compulsory  means,  was  therefore  freely  avowed.* 

Doctor  Collins  was  so  far  from  representing  that  an  af- 
ternoon weekly,  however  well  employed,  would  suffice  with- 
out Sabbath  work  in  addition,  to  keep  the  slaves  from  want, 
that  he  recommended  the  giving  the  half  day  in  the  middle 
of  the  week,  instead  of  the  Saturday  (on  which  day  it  is  al- 
ways given  when  at  all)  for  the  provision-grounds ;  in  order 
that  the  slaves  might  have  tivo  weeklt/  periods  at  a  convenient 
distance  from  each  other  for  bringing  home  the  produce  on  their 

Religion  is  one  of  the  topics  that  I  have  left  to  other  pens  : 
but  Sabbath-breaking  has  an  inseparable  connection  with  this 
subject  of  subsistence  from  the  provision-grounds  ;  for  if  Sun- 
day now,  as  my  opponents  have  the  face  to  assert,  is  "strictlij  a 
day  of  rest  "X  how  can  those  grounds  be  cultivated,  and  their 
produce  brought  home,  so  as  to  yield  an  adequate  support  1 

*  "  Besides  this,  (i.  e.  besides  compelling  the  slaves  to  work  on  their 
"  grounds  on  the  Saturday  afternoon)  it  was  the  universal  custom  on  a  Sun- 
"  day  morning  at  about  nine  o'clock,  for  the  manager  or  overseer  to  go 
"  over  the  grounds,  call  out  the  lists,  and  see  who  were  in  their  grounds ; 
"  as  it  was  generally  the  orders  of  the  owner  or  manager  for  the  negroes 
"  to  go  to  their  grounds."  (Evidence  of  that  very  eminent  planter  and 
zealous  defender  of  the  system,  the  late  Mr.  Campbell  of  Grenada,  Com- 
mons' Report  of  1790,  p.  142.)  The  same  witness  being  asked,  (p.  179,) 
"Are  they  compelled  to  labour  at  their  own   grounds?"  answered,  "Yes." 

f  "One  afternoon  of  every  week,  exclusive  of  Sunday,  must  be  allowed 
"  for  the  cultivation  of  their  grounds.  I  should  prefer  Wednesday  or 
"  Thursday  to  any  other  for  that  purpose  ;  because,  being  in  the  middle  of 
"  the  week,  it  enables  your  negroes  when  returning  from  their  labour  to 
"  bring  home  as  many  provisions  as  will  serve  them  until  Sunday,  and  on 
"  Sunday  they  may  stock  themselves  until  the  middle  of  the  week,  which, 
"  where  the  grounds  are  remote  from  the  negro  houses,  is  no  small  advan- 
'•  tage."  (Collins,  p.  104.) 

X  Barclay's  Introduction,  p.  23. 

i/i  the  Jlome-J'ed  Colonies.  269 

If,  when  Dr.  Collins  wrote,  and  Mr.  Campbell  and  others 
testified,  a  day  and  a  half  \oeekU)  were  necessary  for  their  cul- 
tivation, how  has  half  a  day  weekly,  or  one  day  in  every 
fortnight,  which  the  last  and  now  subsisting  Jamaica  act 
prescribes,*  become  sufficient  for  the  purpose  ?  Unless  the 
grounds,  like  the  clouds  when  dropping  manna  on  the  Is- 
raelites, yield  more  plentifully  in  favor  of  the  Sabbath,  its 
newly  acquired  rest,  must,  if  real,  have  reduced  sufficiency 
to  one  third  of  enough. 

That  there  has  been  such  a  reduction,  I  am  indeed  far 
from  beheving  ;  but  it  is  only  because  I  believe,  or  rather 
certainly  know,  that  these  new  pretences  are  wholly  false. 
The  poor  field-negroes  work  as  hard  on  that  day  as  ever; 
because,  as  some  of  their  religious  instructors  have  truly 
stated  the  case,  "  ihey  must  either  profane  the  Sabbath  or 

It  is  clear,  at  least  upon  the  authorities  here  cited,  that 
the  Sabbath  rest  must  be  surrendered,  and  incessant  labour 
consequently  submitted  to,  or  the  subsistence,  where  the 
slaves  are  self-fed,  must  fall  short.  Now  that  the  latter 
alternative  will  be  often  hazarded,  and  actually  incurred,  by 
the  weaker  slaves  at  least,  of  both  sexes,  after  such  severe 
continuous  labour  for  six  days  as  I  have  shewn  to  be  exacted 
from  them,  will  hardly  be  doubted.  Even  the  laborious  walk 
to  and  from  the  provision-grounds  must,  in  many  cases,  suf- 
fice to  deter  the  poor  slave  from  going  to  them,  and  make 
him  or  her  truant  to  the  Sunday  task.  In  Jamaica  they  are 
very  commonly  distant  several  miles  from  the  homestall,  and 
on  hills  of  steep  ascent.  Mr.  de  la  Beche  notices  that  his 
own  were  on  a  mountain  at  a  distance  often  miles. f 

Prudent  therefore,  (however  harsh  and  profane)  is  that  prac- 
tice which  Mr.  Campbell  stated  to  be  universal  in  Grenada ;  the 

*  Act  of  December  1816,  sect.  4. 

f  Notes,  &c.  p.  9.  See  also  Beckford's  Account  of  Jamaica,  vol.  ii. 
p.  152,  "  If  their  grounds  beat  a  considerable  distance  from  the  planta- 
"  tion,  as  they  often  are,  to  the  amount  of  five  or  seven  miles  or  more,  the 
''  journey  backwards  and  forwards,  makes  this  rather  a  day  of  labour  and 
"  fatigue,  than  of  enjoyment  and  rest." 

270  Of  the  Subsistence 

sending  them  onSundaysto  their  work  on  the  provision-grounds 
under  the  overseers  and  drivers ;  but  that  it  was  not  very 
common  elsewhere  was  asserted  by  other  witnesses  ;*  and  we 
may  indeed  infer  from  Dr.  CoUins's  advice  that  it  was  at 
least  not  universal  when  he  wrote.  It  is  probably  less  so 
now,  from  the  effect  of  that  new  policy  to  which  I  have  ad- 
verted . 

That  to  many,  at  least,  of  the  slaves  in  the  home-fed 
colonies,  the  provision-grounds  at  all  times  yield  at  best 
but  a  precarious  and  insufficient  support,  is  clearly  dedu- 
cible  from  that  valuable  body  of  evidence  to  which  I  have 
so  often  referred,  the  examinations  before  the  House  of 
Commons  and  the  Privy  Council,  the  only  pubhc  evidence 
we  have  that  enters  into  any  particular  account  of  the 
system ;  for  when  the  planters  spoke  of  the  abundance 
of  food  derived  from  the  provision-grounds,  they  commonly 
qualified  it  by  the  exceptions  not  only  of  drought  and  hurri- 
canes, but  also  of  slaves  that  were  "  bad,  worthless,  idle,  or  ill- 
"  disposed,"  terms  the  import  of  "  which  Dr.  Collins  has  well 
taught  us  how  to  understand.  It  is  the  "industrious"  slaves 
only  we  are  told  that  never  suffer  want,  except  when  the  mas- 
ter's necessities,  or  droughts,  or  hurricanes  are  the  causes.i" 

The  plain  English  is,  that  those  only  whose  moral  and  phy- 
sical constitutions  are  patient  and  hardy  enough  to  endure 
incessant  labour,  may,  where  the  provision-grounds  are  abun- 
dant and  seasonable,  have  a  sufficiency  of  food. 

The  Dutch  formerly  had  a  method  of  treating  vagrants 
and  other  offenders  against  the  police  more  ingenious  than  is 
our  tread-mill  discipline.  The  man  was  put  into  a  bath,  in 
which   the  water   reached  his  chin,  and   a  stream  was  con- 

*  See  Mr.  Tobin's  evidence  Com.  Report  of  1790,  p.  277. 

f  "  Coercion,"  said  Mr.  Tobin  (where  last  cited)  "  is  unnecessary  to  in- 
"  duce  an  industrious  well-disposed  negro  to  turn  such  grounds  to  the  best 
"  advantage." 

See  also  Mr.  Douglas,  as  before  quoted.  The  good  negroes  live  in  plenty  ; 
the  vagrants  "are  often  in  want;  and  it  is  impossible  to  prevent  it." 

"  The  situation  of  slaves  wlui  are  industrious,  (said  Sir  Ashton  Byam)  is 
"comfortable  and  happy."  (Ibid.  115.)  And  he  excepts  (p.  105)  as  to 
the  sufficiency  of  the  provision-grounds,  "  worthless  and  idle  negroes,  which 
"  are  probably  to  be  found  in  all  gangs  oj"  slaves." 

in  the  Home-Jed  Colonies.  271 

stantly  adding  to  it.  He  had  a  pump  handle  put  into  his 
grasp,  by  the  incessant  working  of  which  he  could  pump  out 
as  much  water  as  flowed  in  ;  but  not  much  more.  He  had 
to  choose  therefore,  between  hard  work  and  drowning.  The 
situation  of  the  self-feeding  slave,  when  not  driven  to  his 
provision-grounds  on  the  Sabbath,  is  much  the  same ;  except 
that  want,  not  drowning,  is  the  consequence  of  his  inaction  ; 
and  that,  as  it  is  a  consequence  not  so  immediate,  foresight  as 
well  as  industry  is  necessary  for  his  preservation. 

If  it  be  asked  whether,  upon  these  views,  I  regard  the  sub- 
sistence in  the  home-fed  colonies,  as  on  the  whole  more  in- 
adequate than  in  those  of  the  other  description,  1  answer, 
No.  On  the  contrary,  I  believe,  that  in  the  former,  generally 
speaking,  the  slaves  are  less  scantily  fed  ;  and  that  the  abler 
part  of  them  often  have  a  sufficiency  of  vegetable  food  in 
point  of  quantity,  though  in  quality,  for  the  most  part,  ill  adapt- 
ed to  the  support  of  hardworking  men  ;  whereas  the  quan- 
tity also  is  grossly  inadequate  where  the  slaves  depend  wholly 
on  the  masters'  allowances ;  as  I  shall  decisively  prove  when 
I  proceed  to  delineate  the  practice  in  the  foreign-fed  islands. 

In  Jamaica,  I  believe,  the  case  to  be  for  the  most  part,  much 
better  than  in  any  of  our  other  sugar  colonies.  It  is  not 
because  the  planters  are  more  liberal ;  for  in  clothing  and 
other  necessaries,  their  slaves  are  not  a  whit  better  provided, 
as  I  shall  show,  than  those  of  other  islands;  nor  is  their 
slavery,  in  other  respects,  more  lenient  either  in  practice  or  in 
law  ;  but  there  is,  in  most  districts  of  that  island,  a  much  greater 
quantity  than  elsewhere  of  seasonable  land  fit  for  the  growth 
of  provisions,  and  unemployed  in  the  culture  of  canes;  so  that 
few  of  the  planters  there  comparatively,  are  under  any  great 
temptation  to  stint  their  slaves  improperly  in  the  quantity  of 
their  allotments,  or  to  assign  them  in  a  barren  soil ;  though 
they  often  lie  at  an  oppressive  distance  from  the  home  stall. 
The  best  provision-grounds,  however,  will  not  suffice  to  pre- 
vent want,  unless  time  and  strength  enough  are  allowed  for 
their  cultivation.  And  though  it  is  obvious  that  where  the 
means  of  culture  are  the  same,  the  better  the  lands,  the 
larger,  ccBteris  paribus,  is  likely  to  be  the  supjjly,  I  see  not 
how  the  weaklier  slaves  in  Jamaica,  or  in  colonial  language, 
the  less  industrious,  can  be  exempted  from  often  suffering 

272  Of  the  Subsistence 

under  a  scarcity  of  food ;  though  in  a  less  degree,  perhaps, 
than  those  in  other  colonies.  That  they  suffer  generally  and 
severely,  when  their  masters  are  in  embarrassed  circumstances, 
we  have  seen  to  be  fully  admitted  by  the  Jamaica  assembly 
itself;  and  the  cause  presumedly  is,  that  planters,  when  forced 
to  push  their  cane  culture  to  the  uttermost,  for  the  relief  of 
their  own  necessities,  allow  a  less  proportion  of  time  to  their 
slaves  for  raising  their  own  provisions. 

One  writer,  the  Rev.  Mr.  Bickell,  who  is  well  worthy  of 
confidence  on  these  subjects,  has  distinguished  the  case  of 
this  island  so  widely  from  the  rest,  as  to  admit  that,  though 
the  quantity  of  the  food  is  very  bad,  much,  generalhf  speaking 
cannot  be  objected  to  the  quantiti/  of  it.  The  concession,  of  course, 
has  been  eagerly  cited  by  the  colonists  ;  and  with  their  usual 
unfairness.  Suppressing  the  words  "  gencralli/  speaking,"  and 
the  context,  that  "  the  ti)ne  alloived  them  for  raising  their  pro- 
"  visions  is  not  by  any  means  sufficient,''  which  shows  that 
the  general  case,  especially  with  the  more  weakly  slaves,  was, 
in  the  writer's  contemplation,  subject  to  very  numerous  ex- 
ceptions;  they  triumphantly  exclaim,  "  attd  so  the  negroes 
"  have  a  sufficient  quantity  of  food''  They  add,  "-and  savoury 
"food,"  because  the  same  writer  had  elsewhere  spoken,  of  their 
pots  of  boiled  vegetables  seasoned  with  a  small  portion  of  salt 
fish,  as  being  savoury,  though  hehad  at  the  same  time  described 
the  ordinary  food  of  the  slaves  to  be  such  "  as  an  English 
-pauper  "  would  reject,  and,  think  hardly  ft  for  human  and  rational 
"  beings."  Having  thus  fairly  dealt  with  his  authority,  they 
say,  "  this  we  should  hope  will  be  glad  news  to  Mr.  Ste- 

I  must  admit  that  there  is  one  fortunate  peculiarity  in 
Jamaica,  if  we  may  take  the  acton  such  authority  as  Bar- 
clay's, which  may  make  the  case  of  the  more  feeble  slaves 
not  so  distressful  there,  as  in  other  home-fed  colonies  ;  for  it 
is  stated  that  "  calaloo  or  wild  spinage  grows  as  a  weed  in 
"  the  cane-fields  ;  and  that  a  certain  yam  grows  wild  in  the 
"  fields  that  have   been  thrown  out  of  cultivation    and  it  is 

*  See  and   compare   Barclay's   Practical   View,  p.  439,   witli   ihe  Rev. 
Mr.  Bickell's  West  Indies  as  they  are,  p.  10,  11.  56,  57. 

in  the  Home-Jed  Colonies.  273 

"  added  that  from  November  till  April  these  are  the  princi- 
"  pal  dependence  of  such  indolent  improvident  creatures  as 
"  will  do  nothing  for  themselves."  I  must  dissent  indeed, 
from  the  encomiums  contained  in  the  same  work  on  yams  as 
pleasant  food,  or  fit  to  be  compared  with  the  potatoes  of  Irish 
labourers,  for  the  sustentation  of  hard  working  men  ;  espe- 
cially in  reference  to  the  wild  yams  here  spoken  of,  which  Mr. 
Bickell's  condemnation  of  by  the  name  of  "  negro  yamsT 
most  strictly  applies  to.  It  is,  I  am  well  informed,  to  use  his 
expression,  "  hoggish  food,"  having  a  harsh  stringy  texture, 
far  exceeding  that  of  the  worst  cultivated  yams,  with  much 
less  of  their  nutritious  substance.  I  nevertheless,  confess 
that  these,  or  even  wild  spinage,  may  allay  the  fierce  cravings 
of  hunger ;  and  consequently  that  the  lot  of  the  indolent  and 
improvident,  in  plain  English,  the  feeble  and  over-worked 
slaves,  may  not  be  quite  so  bad  in  Jamaica,  as  in  places  where 
such  resources,  or  the  uncultivated  cane  pieces  which  pro- 
duce them,  are  not  to  be  found.  But  we  have  here  an  incau- 
tious avowal  that  even  in  Jamaica  those  slaves  whose  provi- 
sion grounds  from  what  is  called  indolence  or  improvidence, 
do  not  yield  them  the  means  of  subsistence,  find  no  resource 
in  allowances  from  their  provident  masters  ;  but  are  left  to 
depend  for  their  food  on  such  supplies  as  the  casual  bounty 
of  nature  may  afford  ;  and  that  for  five  or  six  months  in  the 
year.  This  is  certainly  '^  no  news,"  s.i\\\  less  '' good  news,  to 
Mr.  Stephen." 

Whatever  advantages  the  slaves  in  Jamaica,  or  in  other 
home-fed  colonies,  may  have  in  comparison  with  those  which 
depend  on  imported  provisions,  there  is  one  admitted  counter- 
poise, in  the  occasional  famines  to  which  long  droughts  and 
hurricanes  expose  them. 

Six  successive  hurricanes  in  Jamaica  within  eight  years, 
had  according  to  the  statement  of  its  agent  and  planters 
before  the  committee  of  Privy  Council,  been  destructive  by 
partial  famine  and  disease,  oi  "  many  thousands  of  negro  slaves."* 
Mr.  Hibbert  estimated   the  loss  at   1 5,000,f  and  many  other 

*  Privy  Council  Report,  title  Jamaica,  Q.  A.  No.  30. 
f  Commons  Report  of  1790,  p.  396. 
VOL.  11.  T 

274  Of  the  Subsistence 

witnesses  ascribed  to  the  same  species  of  calamity  the  de- 
cline or  non-increase  of  the  black  population,  chiefly  through 
the  consequent  devastation  of  the  provision  grounds. 

"  It  is  hardly  possible  (said  Mr.  Gr-egg)  for  the  planter  to 
"  provide  against  the  dreadful  effects  of  famine  ;  and  I  should 
"  not  be  surprised  in  case  of  a  hurricane  happening  in  the 
"  ensuing  season,  to  hear  of  some  dreadful  catastrophe  simi- 
"  lar  to  that  which  lately  happened  in  Jamaica  and  Antigua, 
"  by  which  twentij-three  thousand  slaves  perished."* 

These  probably  were  much  exaggerated  statements;  for  their 
objects  were  to  shew  the  necessity  of  the  slave  trade,  and  of 
opening  a  direct  commercial  intercourse  with  the  North  Ame- 
rican States.  But  Dr.  Collins  also,  as  we  have  seen,  (supra 
p.  266.)  notices  the  calamitous  effects  of  hurricanes  in  general 
as  an  occasional  cause  of  "  scarcity,  and  approaching  nearly 
"  to  a  famine,  producing  consequences  fatal  to  the  slaves." 
He  differed,  however,  so  far  from  Mr.  Gregg,  as  to  hold  the 
guarding  against  them  by  the  planter  to  be  not  only  possible 
but  easy.^l- 

That  similar  effects  are  produced  by  long  droughts,  has 
before  been  noticed  and  proved.  On  the  whole,  it  may  be 
affirmed,  that  though  in  the  home-fed  colonies,  the  slaves' 
subsistence  is  commonly  the  least  scanty,  it  is  at  the  same 
time  the  most  subject  to  occasional  and  particular  failure  ; 
and  that  feeding  by  rations  from  the  master's  stores,  being 
the  more  certain  and  equable,  is  the  best  for  those  who  re- 
quire most  support,  the  feebler  part  of  the  gang. 

That  indigenous  food  should  be  raised  when  possible, 
I  admit,  and  on  humane  as  well  as  economical  views  ;  for 
such    sustenance   is    likely    to  be  less    sparingly   given    in 

*  Ibid.  234. 

f  "  A  prudent  man  ought  never  to  be  without  a  resource  adapted  to 
"  the  emergency,  which  should  be  provided  at  the  approach  of  the  hur- 
"  ricane  season.  Nothing  is  better  for  that  purpose  than  the  Indian  corn 
"  of  America ;  because  if  wanted  it  will  afford  a  good  food  for  the  ne- 
"  groes ;  and  if  not  wanted  for  them  it  may  be  given  instead  of  oats  to 
"  the  horses  and  mules,  of  which  a  great  quantity  would  otherwise  be 
"  consumed  ;  so  that  no  loss  whatever  can  possibly  ensue  from  the  salutary 
"  precaution."  (p.  114.) 

in  the  Home-fed  Colonies.  275 

ordinary  eases,  than  that  which  the  master  has  to  buy  ;  but 
there  can  be  no  good  reason  for  leaving  the  supply  of  it  to 
the  care  of  the  slave  himself;  and  it  is  a  flagrant  incon- 
sistency in  those  who  tax  the  negroes  with  indolence  and 
improvidence,  to  commit  to  their  own  prudence  and  volun- 
tary exertions,  the  vital  interest  of  their  subsistence. 

If  lam  asked,  "what  then  should  be  done?"  I  answer, 
Native  provisions  for  their  support  should  be  raised  by  the 
common  labour  of  the  gang  on  the  master's  account,  as  is 
the  practice  in  Barbadoes  ;  and  meted  out  in  adequate 
weekly  rations  from  his  stores  ;  though  land  might  at  the 
same  time  be  allotted  to  those  whose  voluntary  industry 
might  be  employed  upon  it,  to  the  improvement  of  their 
own  condition.  Such,  I  doubt  not,  would  be  the  genaral 
system  in  the  home-fed  colonies,  if  it  had  not  been  found 
inconvenient,  or  thought  indecorous,  to  drive  the  slaves  on 
the  Sabbath  ;  and  a  better  mode,  therefore,  of  exacting  seven 
days  of  labour  weekly,  to  obtain  the  first,  through  their  urgent 
sense  of  their  own  necessities,  by  leaving  to  each  individual 
the  task  of  raising  his  own  food  on  that  day. 

We  are  frequently  told  that  half  a  day's  labour  in  a  week, 
or  the  amount  of  a  week's  labour  in  a  year,  will  suffice  to 
furnish  the  slaves  with  an  abundance  of  food.  1  quoted  my 
West  India  opponents  to  that  effect  in  my  former  volume, 
when  arguing  with  them  upon  their  own  premises,  in  aggra- 
vation of  the  injustice  and  cruelty  of  leaving  their  slaves  to 
suffer  hunger  and  famine,  when  their  owners  were  needy  and 
embarrassed,  merely  because  land  and  time  were  avariciously 
withheld  from  them.  Those  propositions  are  now  cited  against 
me,  in  various  places,  by  Mr.  Barclay,  as  if  they  had  been 
originally  mine,  and  advanced  on  my  own  authority.  It  is 
true  that  I  gave  them  more  credit  and  countenance  than  they 
deserved  ;  but  expressly  because  I  found  what  seemed  to  me 
a  satisfactory  confirmation  of  those  estimates  of  my  opponents 
in  a  State  Paper  published  by  President  Boyer  at  Hayti,  in 
which  half  an  hour's  daily  labour  was  said  to  suffice  there  for 
a  week's  subsistence.  I  now  believe  that  I  had  mistaken 
the  President's  meaning.  He  was  comparing,  not  the  specific 
produce  of  agricultural   industry  with  the  time  employed  in 

T   2 

276  Of  the  Subsistence 

raising  it ;  but  the  high  price  of  human  labour  in  that  coun- 
try, with  the  general  cheapness  of  food  there.*  If  I  had 
been  controverting  an  opponent's  premises,  such  a  mistake 
would  have  been  less  venial ;  but  I  had  a  right  to  argue  ex 
concessis,  without  very  carefully  if  at  all  considering  whether 
the  adopted  proposition  was  correct. 

The  quantity  of  labour  requisite  to  produce  a  given  quan- 
tity of  food  must  obviously  be  widely  different  in  Hayti, 
where  the  cane  lands,  proverbially  once  the  most  productive 
of  any  in  the  West  Indies,  are  now  applicable  to  that  pur- 
pose, from  what  it  is  in  the  old  British  colonies,  where  the 
cane  plant  ingrosses  all  the  soil  rich  enough  to  produce  sugar 
to  advantage.  I  was,  therefore,  wrong,  even  on  my  own 
former  view  of  the  authority,  in  supposing  that  the  Haytian 
estimate  tended  to  support  that  which  I  borrowed  from  my 
opponents,  which  I  now  believe  to  have  been  as  deceptious  as 
their  statements  usually  are. 

Indeed,  they  practically  show  their  own  sense  of  its  ex- 
treme inadequacy ;  for  if  half  a  day  weekly  will  suffice,  and 
if  they  give  that  time,  as  they  generally  pretend  they  do  on 
Saturday,  then  what  becomes  of  all  the  excuses  for  suffering 
and  recommending,  not  to  say  enforcing,  the  working  in  the 
provision  grounds  on  the  Sabbath  ?  and  how  comes  it  that 
advocates  for  humane  improvements,  like  Dr.  Collins,  recom- 
mend the  systematic  encouragement  of  that  practice  as  es- 
sential to  the  well-being  of  the  unfortunate  drudges  them- 
selves ?  It  is  also,  let  us  remember,  admitted  that  the  daily 
respite  of  two  hours  at  noon  is  often  applied  by  the  poor 
wearied  drudges  to  what  on  the  estimate  in  question,  would 
be  a  needless  purpose. 

*  The  words,  as  quoted  in  my  former  volume,  p.  90.,  were  "  L'tiomme  qui 
"  travnille  une  demi  heure  par  jour,  ohtient  nn  suhsistance,  pendant  vne 
semaine."  I  cannot  now  find  the  paper  referred  to  ;  but  think  the  words 
"  pendant  une  semaine,"  would  have  been  improper  and  unintelligible,  if 
the  specific  produce  of  the  labour,  as  I  supposed,  had  been  in  view. 
Indeed,  in  that  island  where  much  of  the  vegetable  food  in  use  is  of 
spontaneous  and  perennial  growth,  the  ratio  between  the  labour  and  the 
specific  produce,  could  hardly  be  any  subject  of  estimate. 

in  the  Foreign-fed  Colonies.  277 

The  fact  is,  that  my  opponents  grossly  exaggerated,  in 
the  estimates  referred  to,  the  productive  power  of  labour, 
even  when  employed  on  the  best  soil  ever  allotted  to  the 
slaves,  and  when  aided  by  seasonable  weather.  At  the  same 
time  they  forgot  their  own  exceptions  of  droughts,  hurri- 
canes, and  periods  of  the  year  in  which  the  provision  grounds 
are  very  scantily  if  at  all  productive. 

But  it  is  high  time  I  should  proceed  to  the  next  division 
of  my  subject ;  and  shew  more  clearly  what  is  the  actual 
quantum  of  food,  and  what  the  colonial  standard  of  suffici- 
ency, by  ascertaining  its  amount,  when  dealt  out  by  the 
master  himself  in  articles  that  he  has  imported  or  bought. 

Section  5. —  Of  the   subsistence   in  foreign-fed  colonies,   in 
respect  of  its  ordinary  nature  and  amount. 

Here  it  will  much  assist  the  reader  in  rightly  comprehend- 
ing and  weiohino;  the  evidence  which  I  have  to  adduce,  to 
shew  him,  first,  upon  what  specific  points  the  parties  to  the 
abolition  controversy  were  originally  at  issue  on  this  subject; 
and  how  far  they  agreed  in  their  statements. 

For  this  purpose  1  cannot  do  better  than  to  cite,  on  the 
one  hand,  Mr.  Ramsafs  Essay  ;  and  on  the  other  hand  Mr. 
Tobin's  "  Cursory  Remarks"  on  that  work  ;  for  these,  as 
before  observed,  may  be  considered  as  the  original  pleadings, 
or  allegations  of  the  contending  parties,  when  they  first  ap- 
peared at  the  public  bar  in  this  country  as  accusers  and 
defenders  of  colonial  slavery,  on  the  question  of  abolishing 
the  slave  trade. 

In  the  present  division  of  my  subject,  their  statements  are 
of  the  more  importance,  because  both  Mr.  Ramsay  and  Mr. 
Tobin  had  long  resided  in  the  foreign-fed  colonies  of  St. 
Christopher  and  Nevis,  to  which,  in  consequence,  their  ac- 
counts had  a  special  reference  ;  and  both  went  into  details  as 
to  the  ordinary  allowances  of  food  in  those  islands  ;  more 
especially  in  the  former,  where  the  pre-eminent  and  then  un- 
diminished fertility  of  the  cane-lands  had  made  the  feeding 
with  imported  grain  far  more  exclusive,  and  dependence  on 

278  Of  the  Subsistence 

the  master's  rations  more  absolute,  than  in  any  other  part  of 
the  West  Indies. 

If  it  were  true,  as  my  opponents  commonly  maintain,  that 
whatever  enhances  the  present  profits  of  the  planter,  promotes 
also  the  comfort  and  welfare  of  his  slaves,  the  subsistence  given 
at  that  period  in  St.  Christopher,  would  form  far  too  favourable 
a  specimen  of  the  general  case  ;  for  the  pre-eminent  value  of 
the  sugar  of  that  island  is  notorious ;  and  so  fertile  then  was 
its  soil,  that  some  estates  were  known  to  produce  from  three 
to  four  hogsheads,  of  a  ton  weight,  for  every  acre  they 
planted ;  nay,  one  or  two  plantations,  near  the  town  of 
Basseterre,  were  generally  said  to  have  yielded,  in  a  good 
season,  five  such  hogsheads  per  acre.  But  as  I  am  far  from 
admitting,  either  that  the  slave  is  in  general  benefited  by  the 
master's  wealth,  or  that  his  wealth  can  be  with  certainty  in- 
ferred from  the  productiveness  of  his  crops,  I  desire  only  that 
the  selection  of  St.  Christopher,  the  colony  with  which  I  am 
best  acquainted,  may  not  be  thought  unfair  towards  the 
foreign-fed  colonies  at  large. 

I  could  wish  to  extract  all  that  Mr.  Ramsay  said  on  the 
subject  of  feeding;  for  it  is  highly  impressive;  but  it  will 
suffice  for  the  only  use  1  desire  to  make  of  his  work,  to 
quote  merely  the  details  he  gave  as  to  the  ordinary  weekly 
allowances  from  the  master.  He  stated,  "  that  they  varied  on 
"  different  plantations,  from  one  to  .three  pounds  of  grain, 
**  under  the  Jiominal  measure  of  from  two  to  eight  pints ; 
**  that  a  few  plantations  went  near  to  five  pounds,  and  one  or 
"  two  as  far  as  six ;  and  that  the  slaves  always  received  from 
"  three  to  eight  herrings  a  week,"*  But  he  alleged  instances 
of  parsimony  much  below  this  general  scale  of  subsistence, 
cruelly  inadequate  though  it  must  be  seen  to  be. 

Mr.  Tobin,  in  his  reply,  said,  "  I  shall  not  differ  greatly 
"  from  Mr.  Ramsay,  when  I  assure  my  readers  that  the  general 
''  allowance,  on  a  tolerably  well  regulated  plantation,  is  as 
"  follows,  viz.  out  of  crop  time  from  six  to  nine  pints  of  flour, 
"  oatmeal,  rice,  pease,  &c.,  and  from  six  to  eight  salted  Scotch 
"  herrings,  for  a  week,  to  each  slave  above  the  age  of  a  suck- 

Ramsay's  Essays,  p.  70.  80. 

///  the  Foreign-fed  Colonics.  279 

"  ling  infant.  During  grinding  season,  whicli  lasts  from  four 
"  to  live  months,  this  allowance  is  perhaps  reduced  to  from 
"  four  to  six  pints  of  flour,  &c.,  and  to  from  four  to  six  her- 
"  rings."  He  added,  "  exclusive  of  this  regular  allowance, 
"  it  is  customary,  on  most  plantations,  to  give  each  negro  at 
"  breakfast  time,  during  the  rainy  time  of  the  year,  a  ship 
"  biscuit,  with  a  draught  of  molasses  and  water,  which  is  dis- 
"  tributed  in  the  field.  This  breakfast  allowance  is  in  general 
"  extended  to  the  negro  children  through  the  whole  year.  I 
*'  will,  however,  drop  for  the  present,"  he  added,  "  all  extra 
"  indulgences,  and  suppose  the  average  allotvonce  of'  each  slave 
"  through  the  tv/iole  year,  to  he,  weekly,  six  pints  of  Jiour,  ^c, 
"  and  six  herrings."* 

This,  Mr.  Tobin  proceeded  to  maintain,  proved  the  slaves  to 
be  as  well  fed  as  our  British  labourers ;  a  proposition  at  which 
my  readers  will  doubtless  be  much  surprised ;  and  which  shall 
hereafter  receive  the  attention  it  well  deserves.  Meantime 
an  explanatory  remark  or  two  may  be  wanted  on  Mr.  T.'s 
premises  ;  which,  though  he  regarded  them  as  nearly  con- 
curring with  those  of  his  opponent,  seem  to  differ  from  them 
not  a  little.  Jfpitits  were  to  be  taken  as  equivalent  to  pounds, 
it  is  manifest  that  the  medium  of  Mr.  Tobin  was  the  maximum 
of  Mr.  Ramsay;  whose  larger  allowances,  besides,  were  ascribed 
to  only  one  or  two  plantations  ;  whereas  Mr.  Tobin  spoke  of 
all  "  tolerably  well  reg^ulated"  ones.  The  latter,  however, 
guarded  himself  by  a  note,  as  follows  : — "  In  speaking  of  re- 
"  gulation,  allowances,  &c.  I  wish  them  to  be  understood  as 
"  adopted  by  such  estates  as  have  f allot  under  my  oivn  imme- 
"  diate  inspection.  In  a  few,  perhaps,  the  treatment  of  the 
"  slaves  may  not  have  been  so  liberal ;  and  in  others,  I  have 
"  not  the  vanity  to  doubt  but  they  may  have  been  much 
*'  more  so." 

This  disclaimer  of  vanity  seems  to  shew  that  by  inspection 
we  must  understand  direction,  either  as  owner  or  attorney  ; 
and  the  doubtful  terms  as  to  other  estates,  plainly  import  that 
the  author  disavowed  any  certain  knowledge  of  their  allow- 
ances.    If,  then,  we  suppose,  that  in  speaking  of  "  tolerably 

Cursory  Remarks,  p.  58-9. 

280  Of  the  Sulmalcuce 

well  regulated  plantations,"  he  had  in  his  view  the  standard 
of  feeding  on  those  of  which  he  was  the  owner  or  attorney, 
the  apparent  difficulty  of  understanding  him  is  lessened,  or 
removed.  Mr.  Ramsay's  maximum  may  have  been  the  true 
medium  of  allowances  on  those  estates;  and  the  difference  may 
have  been  chiefly  in  their  different  views  as  to  the  compara- 
tive numbers  of  those  "  well  regulated  plantations,"  and 
others  of  an  opposite  character.  The  alleged  approximation 
and  great  apparent  difference  of  the  two  accounts  may,  how- 
ever, partly  have  arisen  from  the  various  terms  of  quantity 
employed ;  for  though  Mr.  Ramsay  had  given  the  amount  of 
the  allowances  both  by  weight  and  measure,  his  opponent, 
saying  nothing  as  to  weight,  resorted  to  the  pint  measure 
only.  The  former  also  had  spoken  of  the  pints  as  nominal 
ones,  with  a  meaning  well  known  at  the  time  *,  and  clearly 
had  in  view  such  as  were  greatly  below  the  standard  pint  of 
this  country,  and  had  no  uniform  dimensions.  This  appears 
from  his  general,  though  indefinite  proportions,  between  the 
numbers  of  pints  and  pounds  ;  for  though  he  stated  both  as 
varying  on  different  estates,  we  find  those  proportions  in 
general  given  by  him  as  nearly  two  pints  to  one  pound ; 
whereas  a  pint  of  flour  weighs  only  about  fourteen  ounces. 
Mr.  Tobin  neither  repelled  nor  noticed  the  imputation  of 
false  measurement ;  and  yet,  strangely  enough,  chose  to  give 
his  quantities  by  the  impeached  pint  measure  alone,  avoiding 
the  criterion  of  weight  altogether.  Nevertheless,  he  soon 
after  tacitly  assumed,  in  his  comparison  of  these  allowances 
with  the  subsistence  of  English  labourers,  that  the  pint  of 
flour,  or  even  of  unground  Indian  corn  or  beans,  is  equal  to  a 
pound  of  the  former ;  though  if  so,  the  plantation  pint  must, 
instead  of  falling  short  of  the  English  standard,  exceed  it  by 
one  seventh  part  at  the  least.  It  would  follow  also,  on  that 
assumption,  that  the  difierence  between  the  two  accounts,  in- 
stead of  being  small,  was  nearly  as  two  to  one. 

*  It  was  one  among  the  charges  against  the  planters  on  this  head,  that  to 
conceal  in  some  degree  the  extreme  scantiness  of  the  allowances,  many  of 
them  reduced  the  wooden  measure  of  this  denomination  to  mucli  less  than 
an  actual  pint. 

in  the  Foreign-fed  Colonies.  28 1 

But  as  it  is  not  incumbent  on  nie  to  vindicate  the  consis- 
tency of  a  writer  whom  I  quote  only  as  an  opponent,  let  it  be 
supposed  that  his  statement  was,  in  effect,  widely  different 
from  Mr.  Ramsay's;  and  let  it  be  further  supposed,  if  my 
readers  please,  that  Mr.  Ramsay's  fell  much  below,  and  that 
Mr.  Tobin's  did  not  at  all  exceed,  the  true  ordinary  rates  of 
subsistence.  The  question  then  will  be,  whether  six  pints,  or 
seven  at  the  most,  of  whole  Indian  corn,  or  even  of  wheaten 
flour,  and  about  as  many  salt  herrings  per  week,  are  enough 
for  the  subsistence  of  a  hard-workino-  man  ? 

We  have  seen  already  Dr.  Collins's  opinion  on  that  point. 
His  decisive  authority,  if  it  did  not  confirm  the  account  of  Mr. 
Tobin,  showed  that  it  was  at  least  sufficiently  favorable  to  the 
planters.  "  It  is  vain  to  conceal  what  we  all  know  to  be 
"  true,  that  in  many  of  the  islands  they  did  not  give  more 
"  than  six  or  seven  pints  of  flour  or  grain,  with  as  many  her- 
"  rings,  for  a  negro's  weekly  allowance ;"  and  he  was  so  far 
from  thinking,  like  Mr.  Tobin,  this  rate  of  subsistence  to  be 
sufficient,  that  he  treated  the  allowance  as  a  scanty  pittance, 
such  as  may  indeed  possibly  suffice  "  to  hold  soul  and  body 
"  together"  for  a  considerable  time,  with  men  "  whose  only 
"  husijiess  is  to  live ;"  but  so  inadequate  to  sustain  them  under 
hard  labour,  that  he  expressly  ascribes  to  its  scantiness  the 
shocking  mortality  of  which  he  had  long  been  a  melancholy 
witness.  "  I  aver  it  boldly,  that  a  great  number  of  negroes 
"  have  perished  aiinually  by  diseases,  produced  by  inanition,"* 

Authority,  perhaps,  will  be  thought  superfluous  to  prove 
that  such  must  be  the  effect  of  restricting  hard-working  men 
in  an  exhausting  climate,  or  any  climate  on  earth,  to  four- 
teen ounces  or  less  of  vegetable  food  per  diem,  even  were  it 
the  most  nutritive  and  best  prepared  food  of  that  description  ; 
whereas  we  have  seen  that  six  or  seven  pints  weekly  of  un- 
ground  Indian  corn  or  horse  beans,  the  nutritious  part  of 
which  must  weigh  much  less  than  an  equal  measure  of  flour, 
are  very  often  the  subjects  of  this  scanty  allowance.  1  believe 
they  are  much  the  more  common. 

The  salt  herrings  can  hardly  be  at  all  taken  into  the  account 

*  Practical  Rules,  p.  87.  cited  moie  fully  supra,  p.  238. 

282  Of  the  Subsistence 

as  nutritious  food ;  nor  are  they  considered  as  such  by  the 
planters  themselves.      Several  of   them   admitted,    that   the 
herrings  serve  merely  to  give  a  flavour  or  seasoning  to  their 
vegetable  diet,  when  boiled  into  a  mess,  or,  in  the  Creole 
phrase,  a  pot.     "  As  to  the  animal  part  of  their  food,  (says 
"  Dr.  Collins)  the  portion  is  small  indeed,  consisting  of  salt 
"  fish  or  herrings.     Though  a  great  deal  of  nourishment  can- 
"  not  be  expected  to  reside  in  either  of  them,  yet  as  they  are 
"  much  coveted  by  negroes,  and  impart  a  relish  to  their  vege- 
"  tables,  they  cannot  be  dispensed  with."     He,  therefore,  in 
that  view  alone,  "  as  the  only  good  purpose  they  answered," 
recommended  the  continuance  of  their  use,  only  in  the  then 
ordinary   quantities  ;  and  was  of  opinion,   that   there  should 
be   no    increase    of  them ;    while  he    earnestly  advised   the 
planters  to  adopt  a  more  generous  supply  in  the  other  articles 
of  food.*  In  fact,  the  herrings,  in  the  state  in  which  they  are 
very  commonly  imported,  and  still  more  when  progressively 
served  out,  often,  many  months  after  their  arrival,  are  little 
better  than  a  mass  of  foetid  matter,  containing  as  little  nutri- 
ment as  the  brine  in  which  they  lie ;  but  the  negroes  are  fond 
of  them,  and   the  more,  I  believe,  from   that  strong,  and  to 
European  organs,  offensive  flavour,  to  which  use  has  given  a 
zest.     They  are  desired  chiefly,  no  doubt  on  account  of  the 
salt,    with  which    they    are  so    fully   impregnated,    that    it 
forms  no  small  part  of  their  substance.     Some  travellers  in 
Africa  tell  us  that  this  article  is  there  in  high  request,  and 
sells  in  the  interior  for  an  extravagant  price  ;  and  the  powerful 
craving  of  human   appetite  for  salt,  has  been  noticed  by  se- 
veral writers  as  an  instinctive  propensity,  implanted  in  us  on 
account  of  the  great  usefulness  of  that  article  in  the  digestive 
process,  and  its  tendency  to  the  preservation  of  health.     I 
doubt  much  whether  the  same  quantity  of  salt  in  a  pure  state 
would  be  less  nutritive  than  the  herrings ;    but  perhaps   it 
would  not  be  much  cheaper  to  the  master ;  and  probably  not 
so  acceptable  to  the  slaves. 

Though  it  may  reasonably  be  assumed,  that  Mr.  Tobin's 
account,  confirmed  by  the  long  subsequent  one  of  Dr.  Collins, 

*  Practical  Rules,  p.  115. 

in  the  Foreign-fed  Colonies.  283 

was  at  least  sufficiently  favorable  to  the  planters  at  large, 
several  of  them,  when  called  as  witnesses  in  their  own  cause, 
stated  the  ordinary  allowances  of  grain  or  flour  at  a  consider- 
ably higher  rate  ;  but  on  a  fair  review  of  their  evidence,  the 
most  credible  general  result  will  be  found  to  be,  that  the 
average  of  six  or  seven  pints  and  as  many  herrings  weekly, 
was  rather  above  than  below  the  actual  practice.  A  compa- 
rison, even  of  the  most  authoritative  statements,  those  of  the 
Colonial  Assemblies  and  their  public  agents,  variant  and  dis- 
cordant though  they  were,  will  lead  to  the  same  conclusion.* 

*  See  the  examinationti  on  this  subject  in  reports  of  the  Privy  Council 
and  Parliamentary  Committees  on  the  Slave  Trade.  The  standing  Q.  A. 
No.  5.  in  the  former,  as  to  the  allowances  of  food  in  different  colonies ; 
was  answered  not  only  by  their  public  agents  here,  but  by  many  of  the 
Governors,  Councils,  and  Assemblies,  whose  written  answers  were  prepared 
in  the  West  Indies,  and  transmitted  officially  to  the  Secretary  of  State. 

"  The  quantity  distributed  is  different  upon  different  estates  ;  I  believe 
"  in  none  less  than  a  pint  a  day  and  a  herring  to  season  their  pots  with, 
"  which  is  given  to  every  7nan,  wo/nan,  and  child,  on  the  estate,  except  in- 
^'fants;  and  many  of  them  have  double  allowances ;  such  as  7)iillvjrights, 
"  masons,  carpenters,  boilers,"  S)-c.  (Extract  from  answer  of  Mr.  Spooner, 
agent  for  St.  Christopher.) 

"  The  quantity  of  food  given  to  them  varies  in  different  plantations,"  ^c. 

"  It  runs  in  general  f7-oni  four  to  nine  pints  per  week,  given  to  every  negro 
"  except  infants,  whose  mothers  have  an  additional  allowance  for  them  from 
"  their  birth,  equal  to  one  half  of  their  own.  Every  negro  also  has  from 
"  four  to  eight  salted  herrings,  mackerel,  or  shads  per  week." — Extract  from 
answer  of  the  Council  and  Assembly  of  St.  Christopher. 

"  The  quantity  of  grain  to  each  negro  is  from  eight  to  twelve  pints ;  and 
"  of  yams  and  potatoes,  from  twenty-five  to  thirty  per  week." — Extract  from 
answer  of  the  Council  and  Assembly  oi  Antigua. 

"  Their  allowance  consists  of  from  four  to  eight  pints  per  iveek  of  grain, 
"  and  from  four  to  eight  he?  rings  furnished  by  the  master." — Extract  from 
answer  of  the  Council  and  Assembly  of  Montserrat. 

"  The  negroes  are  fed  at  the  expence  of  their  master.  The  articles  of 
"  their  food  are  flour,  pease,  rice,  oatmeal,  Indian  corn,  or  Guinea  corn, 
"  together  with  salt  provisions.  In  the  crop-time  the  quantity  allowed  them 
"  varies  from  four  to  six  pints  of  the  above  mentioned  provisions,  and  six 
"  British  herrings,  or  other  salt  provisions  equivale7it  thereto,  per  week. — 
"  They  have  likewise  an  unbounded  licence  of  drinking  what  quantity  of  raw 
"  cane  liquor  they  please,  and  two  pints  of  boiled  cane  liquor  are  generally 
"  given  to  each  negro  per  diem ;  but  out  of  tlie  crop-time  the  quantity 
"  allowed   them    varies    from   eight   to   nine  pints   of  the   above  provisions 

284  Of  the  Subsistence 

It  will  not,  I  presume,  be  doubted,  that  those  public  bodies 
and  officers,  in  their  statements  to  the  privy  council,  and  par- 
liamentary committees,  made  the  best  case  that  could  plausi- 
bly be  set  up  by  them,  on  this  very  interesting  subject.  Their 
object  was  to  avert  the  abolition  of  the  slave-trade ;  and  for 
that  purpose  they  had  to  repel  the  charge  that  the  alleged 
necessity  of  importing  new  negroes  in  order  to  maintain  the 
labouring  population,  arose  mainly  from  their  over-working  and 
under-feeding  their  slaves.  They  were  also  speaking  in  de- 
fence of  their  own  individual  conduct,  as  well  as  the  credit  of 
their  fellow-colonists  at  large :  all  the  misrepresentations 
therefore,  in  such  evidence,  and  all  i^s  deceptious  views  and 
colourings,  must,  in  reason,  be  looked  for  on  the  defensive 

It  is  equally  reasonable,  in  reviewing  the  evidence  of  self- 
interested  witnesses  who  differ  in  their  accounts,  to  regard 
the  statements  least  favourable  to  the  common  self-interest, 
as  approaching  nearest  to  the  truth.  Another  observation  to 
which  such  testimony  is  liable,  will,  I  am  sure,  be  felt  to  be  of 
great  weight,  by  those  who  are  professionally  accustomed  to 
the  examination  of  evidence  for  the  establishment  of  contro- 
verted facts  :  there  is  a  wise  and  equitable  principle  which 
pervades  our  law  of  evidence,  that  of  estimating  proofs,  with 

"per  week,  icith  the  quantity  of  suit  provisions  before  mentioned,  together 
"  with  a  certain  daily  allowance  of  toddy  and  a  ship  biscuit  for  break- 
"  fast." — Answer  to  the  same  query  of  the  Council  and  Assembly  of  Xevis. 

It  is  in  respect  of  the  above  four  islands  alone  that  I  find  any  specifica- 
tion of  the  quantities  of  imported  food  by  those  legislative  bodies. 

As,  to  consult  brevity,  I  have  not  extracted  the  entire  answers,  except  in  the 
case  of  Nevis,  it  is  proper  to  notice  that  the  other  respondents  in  like  manner 
took  credit  for  the  cane  juice  and  liquor  in  crop-time  ;  and  most  of  them 
also,  for  what  the  slaves,  as  they  alleged,  might  earn  by  their  own  labour, 
on  the  spots  of  ground  allotted  to  them  ;  nor  did  they  in  general  forget, 
occasional  distributions  of  grog  or  toddy  during  hard  work,  or  some  extra 
allowances  of  salt  provisions  in  the  Christmas  holidays.  These  paltry 
make  weights,  have  been  or  shall  be  sufficiently  noticed.  The  allowances 
may  fairly  be  said,  in  a  general  view,  to  have  constituted  the  entire  sub- 
sistence ;  for  on  estates  where  it  was  in  any  degree  aided  by  the  advantage, 
very  rare  in  those  islands,  of  provision-ground  allotments,  worthy  of  being 
at  all  taketi  into  account,  the  allowances  were  proportionally  less. 

in  the  Foreign-J'ed  Colonies.  285 

I'eference  to  the  power  of  proving,  which  the  party  adducing 
them  must  possess,  supposing  his  allegations  to  be  true. 
Hence  the  well-known  practical  rule,  of  distrusting,  and  in 
many  cases  absolutely  rejecting,  a  degree  of  evidence  other- 
wise sufficient,  when  the  party  offering  it  has  better  evidence 
in  his  power,  which  he  does  not  produce. 

Now  if  Mr.  Ramsay's  account  of  the  ordinary  allowances 
had  been  untrue,  or  if  the  statements  of  those  witnesses  or 
writers  who  represented  the  rations  of  imported  food  as  ma- 
terially larger,  had  been  correct,  the  one  might  have  been 
refuted,  and  the  other  established  beyond  dispute,  by  the  pro- 
duction of  books  and  papers  to  be  found  in  every  West-India 
counting-house  :  such  as  the  invoices  of  stores  shipped  here 
for  the  use  of  particular  estates,  and  the  accounts  or  abstracts 
transmitted  by  the  managers  or  attornies  to  the  proprietors  in 
this  country,  from  which  the  amount  of  American  or  other  pro- 
visions purchased  on  the  spot  would  have  appeared.  Indeed, 
the  former  alone  would  at  that  time  have  most  commonly 
sufficed ;  for  flour  or  grain,  as  well  as  all  the  other  supplies, 
were  then  chiefly  imported  from  Europe.  To  have  shewn, 
even  in  respect  of  a  few  estates,  that  their  annual  supplies  of 
flour  or  grain,  when  compared  with  their  numbers  of  slaves, 
amounted  to  a  given  rate  of  subsistence  per  head,  would  have 
been  far  more  satisfactory  than  the  loose  parol  estimates  given 
by  individual  planters,  some  of  which  carried  the  allowances 
materially  above  the  accounts  that  I  have  cited. 

The  agents  and  the  West  Indian  Committee  would  of  course 
have  been  readily  supplied  with  such  documentary  evidence, 
had  it  suited  their  purpose  to  call  for  it ;  and  the  individual 
proprietors  who  were  brought  forward  to  attest  their  own 
liberality  in  feeding  their  slaves,  might  have  brought  their 
invoices  and  plantation  accounts  in  their  hands  to  support 
their  statements,  if  true. 

My  recent  antagonist,  Mr.  Barclay,  has  noticed  the  exist- 
ence of  such  evidence  in  this  country ;  and  has  strangely 
enough  affected  to  suppose  that  it  is  within  the  reach  of  anti- 
slavery  writers,  or  of  the  public  at  large.  ''  Of  this  truth,"  he 
says,  viz.  that  planters,  "  hoivever  distressed,  Jiever  curtail  the 
"  comforts  of  their  slaves;" — (an  assertion,  be  it  remembered, 
in  which   he    is   at   direct  variance  with    every  man  of  his 

286  Of  the  Subsistence 

own  party  who  has  ever  written  or  spoken  on  the  subject,) 
*•  it  is  in  the  power  of  any  one  who  wishes  to  satisfy  himself, 
"  by  calling  on  any  respectable  West  India  house  in  London, 
•*  and  comparing  the  quantity  of  clothing,  salt  provisions,  rice, 
"  flour,  medicines,  &c.  furnished  in  prosperous  times  and  the 
"  present.*" 

How  a  man,  wishing  to  pry  into  such  circumstances  upon 
anti-slavery  principles,  would  be  received  by  those  "  respect- 
"  able  West  India  houses,"  I  leave  the  reader  to  guess  : — but 
that  all  the  evidence  their  counting-houses  could  supply 
would  have  been  at  the  command  of  the  West  India  Com- 
mittee, for  the  support  of  the  colonial  petitions  in  Pailiament, 
will  not  be  doubted.  Nor  can  we  think  so  ill  of  the  profes- 
sional talents  of  the  eminent  counsel  and  solicitors  by  whom 
the  case  of  the  petitioners  was  conducted,  as  to  believe  that 
those  sources  of  evidence  were  overlooked,  while  the  long  agi- 
tated question  of  subsistence  was  depending.  But  "  facts 
"  are  stubborn  things,"  and  written  proofs,  forgery  apart,  in- 
tractable ones.  Such  evidence,  therefore,  could  not  have 
been  safely  and  usefully  invoked. 

In  one  instance,  abolitionists  had  access  to  a  document, 
being  a  public  one,  by  which  the  parol  evidence  of  their  op- 
ponents, on  this  very  subject  of  imported  food,  was  put  to  the 
test ;  and  the  result  is  very  impressive.  It  had  been  stated 
before  the  Committee  of  Privy  Council  by  the  agent  of  Ja- 
maica and  other  gentlemen  of  that  island,  that  "  the  common 
"  allowance  of  herrings  there  for  the  food  of  their  slaves,  was 
"  from  twenty  to  twenty-five  barrels  per  annum,  for  every 
"  hundred  negroes,  allages  included  ;"  but  it  was  found,  from 
official  accounts  of  imports  afterwards  called  for  and  ap- 
pended to  the  report,  that  the  average  quantity  of  herrings 
imported  into  Jamaica  during  the  five  next  preceding  years, 
viz.  from  1783  to  1787  inclusive,  was  only  21,089  barrels  ; 
which,  supposing  even  the  plantation  slaves  to  be  the  only 
consumers,  amounted,  according  to  their  then  numbers,  to 
less  than  half  the  quantity  of  the  alleged  consumption. 
Taking  into  account  the   very  large   use  of  that  article  of 

*  P.  11,  12. 

in  tlie  Foreign-Jed  Colonies.  287 

import  by  the  poorer  whites,  the  free  coloured  people  and 
domestic  slaves,  the  statement  was  probably  excessive  by 
two-thirds  at  the  least.* 

To  this  line  of  argument  I  shall  have  occasion  to  recur 
when  I  speak  of  the  amount  of  clothing,  all  the  articles  of 
which  are  still  imported  from  this  country  :  though  it  is  un- 
true that  the  same  is  now  the  case  with  flour,  or  other  vege- 
table food,  as  Mr.  Barclay  insinuates.  But  the  colonial  party 
have  other  means  of  supplying  in  all  respects  this  remarkable 
defect  in  their  evidence  by  documentary  proofs,  as  to  the  time 
present  as  well  as  the  past ;  and  till  they  do  so,  their  parol 
evidence,  even  were  it  more  consistent,  would  weigh  little  in 
reflecting  minds. 

What  argument,  however,  can  be  more  impressive  than 
Dr.  Collins's  too  tardy  discovery  of  the  real  case,  in  his 
public  appeal  to  the  consciences  of  his  brother  planters.  "  It 
"  is  in  vain  to  conceal  what  we  all  know  to  be  true,"  &.c. — Yes, 
they  "  all  knew  this  to  be  true :"  yet  they  all  long  stood 
as  petitioners  before  the  Privy  Council  and  Parliament,  aver- 
ring and  producing  witnesses  to  prove  that  their  slaves  were 
sufficiently,  nay  liberally  and  superabundantly  fed ;  and  all 
concurred  in  crying  down  before  the  British  public,  as  libel- 
lers and  liars,  those  who  had  humanity  and  courage  enough 

*  See  Mr.  Wilberforce's  letter  to  his  constituents  of  Yorkshire,  1807  ; 
where  these  public  documents  are  cited  and  discussed. 

'\'^ain  attempts  were  made  in  reply  by  the  Jamaica  Assembly  to  bolster 
up  this  refuted  falsehood,  on  the  pretence  that  a  large  quantity,  not  included 
in  the  official  returns,  had  been  imported  from  America ;  but  it  was  shown 
in  my  second  letter  to  Mr.  Wilberforce  in  defence  of  his  Slave  Registra- 
tion Bill  in  1816,  that  the  subsidiary  statement,  like  the  primary  one,  was 
unfounded  in  truth. 

Gladly,  no  doubt,  would  the  Assembly  on  that  occasion  have  supported 
its  own  credit  if  possible,  by  adducing  in  its  elaborate  Report  such  written 
evidence  as  was  abundantly  at  hand.  To  have  shewn  from  official  docu- 
ments, e.  g.  the  recorded  accounts  of  receivers  or  trustees,  or  even  from 
plantation  books,  or  accounts  current  with  consignees,  that  herrings  had 
been  supplied  in  the  alleged  proportion,  even  on  a  few  estates,  would  have 
countenanced  the  impeached  statement;  and  might  have  resolved  detected 
imposture  into  venial  mistake,  as  to  the  ordinary  average  supply.  But  no 
such  evidence  was  adduced  ;  and  it  is  not  hard  to  divine  the  cause. 

288  Of  the  Subsistence 

to  affirm  the  contrary.  And  yet  the  same  men  expect  again 
to  be  believed,  when  upon  the  same  kind  of  evidence  they 
renew  the  same  impostures.  What  better  grounds  have  we 
now  for  beUeving  that  the  slaves,  at  this  moment,  are  suffici- 
ently fed,  or  that  they  are  not  still  suffering  the  same  terrible 
consequences  of  inanition  and  hunger,  that  were  so  impres- 
sively described  by  Dr.  Collins  ?  If  improvements,  and  ade- 
quate improvements,  in  this  respect  have  taken  place,  where 
and  when  were  they  made  ? 

Subsequent  writers  on  the  colonial  side  have  prudently 
shunned  the  only  fields  in  which  they  could  be  closely  grap- 
pled with  in  this  branch  of  the  controversy.  They  have  ob- 
served a  discreet  silence  as  to  the  amount  of  such  improvements, 
and  the  actual  scale  of  subsistence,  in  the  foreign-fed  colonies, 
where  alone  it  can  be  ascertained,  and  where  only  we  have 
public  evidence  to  refer  to  in  respect  of  its  former  amount. 
They  affect  to  defend  the  planters  at  large,  without  limitation 
of  place,  against  the  charge  of  under-feeding  their  slaves ; 
but  all  their  alleged  facts,  and  all  their  reasonings,  relate  to 
Jamaica,  or  other  home-fed  colonies.  I  am  not  aware,  at 
least,  that  any  one  apologist  of  the  system,  since  the  abolition 
of  the  slave  trade,  has  ventured  to  tell  us  what  the  allow- 
ances from  the  master  are  in  the  Leeward  islands,  to  which  in 
that  respect  the  former  evidence  almost  exclusively  applied. 

This  omission  is  the  more  observable,  especially  in  those 
who  have  professed  to  answer  my  former  volume,  because  the 
strictures  on  this  important  subject  contained  in  it,  as  inci- 
dental to  my  review  of  the  slave  laws,  had  special  reference 
to  the  Leeward  islands,  and  none  at  all  to  the  case  of  the 
home-fed  colonies  ;  except  by  way  of  contrast  with  the  liberal 
sustentation  at  the  Bahamas,  where  sugar  was  no  longer 

I  there  shewed  the  insufficiency  of  food  under  which  the 
slaves  suffered,  and  often  perished,  in  five  of  our  sugar  colonies 
at  least,  from  authority  not  to  be  questioned  ;  that  of  their  own 
interior  legislatures,  convened  in  a  general  council  and  as- 

See  Vol.  I.  p.  93  to  100,  and  Appendix  thereto,  No.  3,  p.  464  to  468. 

in  the  Foreign-fed  Colonies.  289 

semhly  of  all  the  leeward  islands  at  St.  Christopher  in  1798, 
for  the  purpose  of  amending  their  slave  laws  ;  and  also  the 
inadequacy  and  failure  of  the  enactments  then  made  to  remedy 
the  acknowledged  mischief. 

As  that  volume,  now  long  out  of  print,  will  probably  not 
be  in  the  possession  of  many  who  may  read  the  present,  I 
subjoin  the  rates  of  allowance  prescribed  and  expressly  re- 
cognised as  humane  and  liberal  ones,  by  an  act  of  that  legis- 
lative body.  They  were  either  "  7ii7ie  pints  of  corn  or  beans 
"per  week,  or  eight  pints  oj"  pease,  or  wheat  or  ryejiour,  or  In- 
**  dian  corn  meal,  or  nine  pints  of  oatmeal,  or  seveii  pints  of  rice, 
"  or  eight  pounds  of  biscuit."  Certain  weights  of  native  pro- 
visions, not  as  additions,  but  further  alternatives,  were  also 
prescribed;  and  with  them,  or  with  either  of  these  rations,  one 
pound  and  a  quarter  of  herrings,  shads,  mackarel,  or  other 
salted  provisions,  per  week*  ;  and  the  act  allowed  a  reduction 
of  one-fifth  part  of  these  scanty  allowances  in  crop-time  ;  i.  e. 
during  five  months  of  the  twelve. 

We  have  here,  therefore,  a  standard  of  what  was  deemed 
"  humane  or  liberal"  feeding  in  those  islands,  and  held  out  as 
creditable  to  their  meliorating  code,  ten  years  later  than  the 
period  which  the  witnesses  whom  I  have  cited  referred  to.  I 
may  truly  say,  indeed,  sixteen  years  later ;  for  this  act  was 
laid  before  Parliament  in  1804,  as  being  amongst  the  best 
and  most  recent  fruits  of  his  Majesty's  recommendations  to 
the  assemblies,  pursuant  to  an  address  of  Parliament  of  1797, 
to  pass  protecting  slave  laws ;  nor  am  I  aware,  that  in  any 
one  of  those  islands  the  standard  has  been  raised  by  any 
subsequent  law.  In  St.  Christopher  the  same  scale  of  allow- 
ances was  expressly  re-enacted  only  three  years  ago. 

As  I  shall  have  more  use  to  make  of  this  act  in  the  present 
division  of  my  work,  it  is  proper  to  apprize  my  readers  of  a 
peculiarity  attending  its  enactments  in  respect  of  food,  which 

*  See  the  act  printed  with  other  colonial  information  as  to  meliorating 
laws,  by  order  of  the  House  of  Commons,  of  8th  of  June,  1801,  title 
Leeward  Islands,  15  H: 

VOL.  II.  U 

290  Of  the  Subsistence 

distinguishes  it  very  materially  from  most  other  parts  of  the 
meliorating  codes  of  the  Leeward  Islands,  as  well  as  of  the 
other  sugar  colonies.  In  those  enactments,  its  authors,  or  at 
least  a  respectable  majority  of  them,  were  in  earnest,  and 
wished  to  be  obeyed. 

The  general  object,  indeed,  of  these,  as  of  the  other  colo- 
nial legislators,  was  to  avert  the  abolition  of  the  slave  trade, 
by  what  the  West  India  Committee,  and  the  agents  here,  had 
anxiously  recommended  to  them  as  the  only  possible  means ; 
the  passing  such  laws  as  might,  through  their  popular  effect 
in  this  country,  paralyze  the  efforts  of  the  abolitionists,  by 
producing  a  hope  that  slavery  might  be  effectually  mitigated 
and  terminated,  without  the  abolition  of  the  trade,  or  any 
other  parliamentary  measures.*  But  the  oppression  of  scanty 
feeding  had  at  that  time  been  carried  to  a  more  than  ordinary 
degree  of  severity  by  many  planters  in  those  islands,  especially 
in  St.  Christopher,  whose  half-famished  slaves  had  become,  in 
consequence,  nuisances  to  their  neighbours,  by  breaking  their 
canes  for  food,  and  other  depredations.  It  was,  therefore, 
and  I  hope  also  from  better  motives,  the  sincere  desire  of  the 
more  respectable  members  of  the  general  council  and  assem- 
bly to  fix  a  minimum  of  the  weekly  allowances,  on  as  large  a 
scale,  and  with  regulations  as  effectual,  as  could  be  proposed 
with  any  hope  of  general  concurrence.  But  they  met  with  an 
opposition  so  formidable,  that  they  were  obliged,  in  some 
measure,  to  give  way  to  it ;  and  the  scale  of  subsistence  ulti- 
mately enacted,  shamefully  low  though  it  is,  was  not  carried 
without  great  difficulty.     I  have  in  my  possession  a  printed 

*  See  the  resolutions  of  the  committee,  and  the  letters  of  Sir  William 
Young  inclosing  them,  in  papers  printed  by  order  of  the  House  of  Com- 
mons of  June  8th,  1804.  H.  58,  59. 

The  General  Assembly  of  the  Leeward  Islands  were  so  far  from  disguising 
their  motives,  that  they  thought  it  an  essential  preliminary  to  have  a  copy 
of  the  resolutions  of  the  West  India  Committee,  then  called  "  the  Com- 
"  mittee  of  Planters  and  Merchants"  in  this  country;  and  Sir  William 
Young's  letter  transmitting  the  same,  officially  laid  before  them  ;  and  they 
accordingly  addressed  the  governor  for  that  purpose,  before  they  proceeded 
to  business ;  as  if  on  purpose  to  show  that  they  meant  to  act  merely  in 
conformity  to  the  advice  of  their  partizans  in  England.  See  the  same 
papers,  H.  p.  38. 

in  the  Foreign- fed  Colonies.  291 

report  of  their  deliberations,  published  at  the  time  on  the 
spot,  whereby  it  appears  that  there  were  many  obstinate 
divisions,  upon  motions,  to  reduce,  by  a  weekly  pint  or  two, 
the  scanty  allowances  at  last  adopted. 

Hence  alone,  as  I  doubt  not,  arises  the  peculiar  usefulness 
of  this  act,  in  throwing  light  on  the  actual  practice.  Had  its 
purposes  been  wholly  ostensible  and  illusory,  like  the  ordinary 
enactments  of  the  meliorating  laws,  we  should  most  probably 
have  found  the  prescribed  allowances  two- fold  more  liberal  or 

There  was  naturally,  however,  no  objection  on  either  side, 
to  take  all  the  credit  before  the  English  public  that  could, 
without  cost,  be  obtained ;  and  therefore  the  preamble  recited 
the  object  to  be  "  to  compel  all  persons  to  treat  their  slaves 
"  with  that  humanity  which  is  generally  prevalent  in  these 
"  islands."  No  more  can  be  necessary  to  satisfy  every  mind, 
that  the  enactments  were  not  less  liberal  than  the  best  exist- 
ing practice. 

But  scanty  though  those  statutable  allowances  are,  I  stated, 
in  my  former  volume,  that  they  had  not  in  fact  been  given ; 
and  that  the  act  had  proved  a  dead  letter,  like  the  other 
meliorating  laws.  I  cited,  in  proof  of  it,  the  authority  of 
Mr.  Caines,  an  eminent  planter  of  St.  Christopher,  who,  some 
years  after,  had  the  humanity  and  courage,  though  resident 
in  that  island,  to  publish  a  pamphlet  there,  stating  that  fact, 
and  remonstrating  with  his  brother  planters  on  the  subject. 
I  cited  further,  an  express  admission  of  the  Council  and 
Assembly  of  Antigua,  in  1815,  that  the  prescribed  allow- 
ances had  not  been  given,  and  offering  as  an  excuse  for  it,  the 
poverty  of  the  planters  ;  and  I  added  what  was,  if  possible, 
still  more  decisive,  that  the  provisions  of  the  act  for  securing 
its  own  execution,  by  public  returns  on  oath  from  the  different 
plantations,  had,  as  appeared  by  the  answers  to  official  en- 
quiries made  in  pursuance  of  a  parliamentary  address,  been 
every  where,  and  universally  neglected,  from  the  first  promul- 
gation of  the  act,  without  a  single  prosecution  for  any  such 

These  statements  being  undenied  and  unanswered  by  my 
opponents,  I  may  surely  now  assume,  as  incontrovertible, 
that  in  the  Leeward  Islands  at  least,  the  general  allowances 

u  2 

292  Of  the  Subsistence. 

to  the  slaves  are  still  less  than  their  own  laws  prescribe  ;  and  if 
so  they  are  probably  not  larger  than  those  which  Dr.  Collins  so 
strongly  reprobated  as  cruelly  and  destructively  scanty,  viz., 
six  or  seven  pints  per  week  ;  for  if  we  deduct  the  fifth  part 
during  five  months  of  crop-time,  from  the  prescribed  weekly 
rations  of  nine  pints,  the  annual  average  of  the  legal  allowances 
will   not  exceed  eight. 

It  is  by  no  means  necessary,  however,  that  I  should  insist 
on  any  such  inferiority  in  the  practical  to  the  legal  standard  ; 
for  what  European  reader  can  contemplate  the  latter,  without 
compassionate  and  indignant  emotions  ?  With  the  nutritive 
powers,  as  human  food,  of  some  of  the  alternative  articles,  we 
are,  indeed,  happily  unacquainted  in  this  country;  but  the 
les:islature  of  the  Leeward  Islands  havino-  considered  its 
weekly  rations  of  unground  corn  and  horse  beans  as  equiva- 
lent to  eight  pints  of  flour,  or  eight  pounds  of  biscuit,  (i.  e. 
the  hard  and  heavy  ship  biscuit  in  use  by  the  most  economi- 
cal mariners,  for  none  other  is  ever  given  to  the  slaves,)  we 
are  furnished  with  an  unexceptionable  medium,  whereby  to 
estimate  the  rest.  The  allowances,  in  whatever  form,  are 
only  equal  to  eight  pints  of  flour,  or  eight  pounds  of  ship- 
biscuit  weekly  ;  and  this  is  the  whole  subsistence  of  hard- 
working men,  with  the  addition  only  of  one  pound  and  a 
quarter  of  salt  herring,  which,  as  we  have  seen  to  be  admitted, 
has  no  nutritious  value,  but  is  used  as  seasoning  only. 

I  shall  hereafter  compare  this  miserably  inadequate  sub- 
sistence with  the  ordinary  consumption  of  food  by  English 
agricultural  labourers;  and  also  with  the  allowances  of  food 
to  persons  who  are  sustained  here  at  public  expense  ;  and  the 
result  will  be  found  demonstrative  of  the  cruel  parsimony  of 
sugar  planters,  in  a  degree  far  beyond  what  most  of  my  readers 
may  be  prepared  to  expect.  In  the  meantime  it  may  be  right 
to  remind  those  who  have  read  my  former  volume,  that  the 
allowances  prescribed  by  law  in  the  Bahamas,  where  the  curse 
of  sugar  planting  has  ceased  with  the  capacity  of  the  soil  to 
sustain  it,  were  shown  to  be  in  comparison  with  those  of  the 
Leeward  Islands  in  the  proportion  of  near  two  to  one. 

It  is  but  fair  to  admit,  in  this  place,  that  the  advice  of  Dr. 
Collins  did  not  extend  to  so  large  an  increase  of  the  ordinary 
allowances,  as  I  shall  maintain  that  humanity  clearly  required, 
nor  quite  so  large  as  the  Bahama  legislature  has  prescribed. 

in  the  Foreign-fed  Colonies.  293 

"  When  your  negroes  are  fed  with  an  allowance,  and  have  that 
"  only  to  depend  upon,  you  ought  not  to  give  less  than  ten  or 
*'  twelve  pints  a  week  to  each  grown  7iegio.''* 

But  it  is  impossible,  I  think,  to  read  his  work  throughout 
without  ascribing  this  very  abstemious  exhortation  to  his 
ordinary  policy  of  prescribing  no  more  costly  correctives  of 
the  existing  system  than  such  as  he  hoped  his  brother  plan- 
ters might  be  persuaded,  for  their  own  interest,  to  adopt.  He 
well  knew,  that,  compared  with  the  general  practice,  ten  or 
twelve  pints  per  week  would  be  a  very  important  attainment 
for  the  slave ;  and  he  knew  also,  full  well,  how  hard  it  would 
be  to  reconcile  the  additional  expence  attending  any  such  im- 
provement with  that  rigid  economy  in  the  management  of  a 
sugar  estate,  which  necessity  dictates  to  most  planters,  and 
avarice  strongly  suggests  to  them  all.  The  slave  trade,  it 
should  be  observed,  in  his  further  excuse,  was  then  still  in 
existence,  and  seemed  to  have  finally  triumphed  over  its  op- 
ponents. Dr.  C.  therefore  evidently  calculated  upon  its  con- 
tinuance, for  which  he  had  been,  and  seems  still  to  have  been, 
an  advocate.  His  advice,  consequently,  was  adapted  to  a 
state  of  things  in  which  the  preservation  of  the  slaves  was  not 
an  object  of  any  clearly  demonstrative  necessity,  and  he  did 
not  hope  that  very  costly  sacrifices  for  the  attainment  of  it 
could  be  recommended  with  any  hope  of  effect. 

Whether  this  defence,  or  rather  this  explanation,  of  his 
views  be  satisfactory  or  not,  the  increase  of  subsistence  that 
he  advised  was  clearly  inadequate  to  the  demands  of  justice 
and  humanity  ;  though  full  large  enough  to  condemn,  on  his 
authority,  the  still  subsisting  legal  standard,  and  still  more 
the  actual  practice,  in  the  Leeward  Islands.  In  proof  of  this 
I  will  now  add,  however  needlessly,  to  the  practical  legislative 
estimate  of  the  Bahamas,  that  of  Jamaica. 

In  the  last  consolidated  slave  act  of  that  island,  section  69, 
a  regulation  is  made  for  the  subsistence  of  slaves  while  con- 
fined as  criminals  in  the  workhouses  or  gaols.  The  keepers 
are  commanded,  under  a  penalty  of  ten  pounds  for  every  ne- 
glect, "  to   provide  and  give  to  every  slave  a  sufficient  quan- 

Practical  Rules,  p.  92. 

294  Of  the  Subsistence 

"  tity  of  good  and  wholesome  provisions  daily,  that  is  to  say, 
"■  not  less  than  one  quart  of  unground  Guinea  or  Indian  corn, 
"  three  pints  of  the  flour  or  meal  of  either,  or  three  pints  of 
"  wheat  flour,"  (or  substitutes  needless  to  specify  in  native 
vegetables)  "  and  also  one  herring  or  shad,  or  other  salted 
"  provisions  equal  thereto."*  Comparing  like  articles  with 
like,  we  have  here  quantities  from  two-fold  to  three-fold 
greater  than  the  allowances  of  the  Leeward  Islands;  and 
greater  by  one-third,  at  least  on  a  medium,  than  those  recom- 
mended by  Dr.  Collins,  the  herrings  or  other  seasonings  of 
the  vegetable  diet  excepted,  which  are  the  same  in  all. 

Did  the  Jamaica  legislature,  in  giving  these  at  the  public 
expence,  expressly  as  "  sufficient  quantities'^  of  food,  intend  a 
large  superfluity,  as  a  bounty  to  criminals  ?  or  do  men  require 
thrice  as  much  food  in  prison,  as  when  they  are  working  hard 
in  the  cane-pieces  through  the  day  ? 

Before  I  dismiss  this  subject  of  subsistence  in  the  foreign- 
fed  colonies,  it  may  be  proper  to  notice  the  resources  which 
"  industrious"  negroes  were  said  even  there  to  possess,  for 
adding  to  their  means  of  subsistence,  by  cultivating  those 
mountain  provision-grounds  which  belong  to  some  estates,  and 
those  small  spots  of  broken  ground  which  are  unavoidably 
left  to  them,  even  in  the  fully  planted  and  dry  weather  Lee- 
ward Islands ;  and  also  by  their  gathering  grass  and  brush- 
wood for  sale  in  the  markets. 

Though  Mr.  Tobin,  in  his  reply  to  Ramsay,  did  not  scruple 
to  maintain  that  the  master's  allowances,  supposing  them  to 
be  no  more  than  six  pints  of  flour  and  six  herrings  weekly, 
were  enough  for  the  slave's  support,  and  ventured  to  compare 
them  in  a  way  I  shall  hereafter  remark  upon,  with  the  sub- 
sistence of  English  labourers,t  he  afterwards,  when  examined 
as  a  witness  before  the  Committee  of  the  House  of  Commons, 
seems  to  have  thought  it  expedient,  like  others,  to  take  these 
alleged  resources  of  voluntary  industry  into  the  account. ;]: 

*  See  the  act  in  papers  printed  by  order  of  the  House  of  Commons,  of 
June  10,  1818. 

f  Cursory  Remarks  59,  60. 

I  Commons  Report  of  1790,  p.  236.  Q.  "  Is  the  quantity  of  food  al- 
lowed to  the  negroes  sufficient  for  "  their  support?"     A.  "  The  quantity  of 

in  the  Foieign-fed  Colonies.  295 

Mr.  Thomas,  of  Nevis,  made  the  same  make-weight  means 
a  part  of  his  estimate. 

Q.  "  Is  the  food  allowed  to  the  negroes,  in  your  judgment, 
"  proper  and  sufficient  for  their  support  ?  A.  "  No  doubt 
"  the  food  is  proper;  and  with  regard  to  the  quantity,  I  must 
"  say  that  it  is  a  bare  sufficiency  for  their  support;  but  it  is, 
"  at  the  same  time  to  be  understood,  that  no  master  depends 
"  wholly  on  that  allowance  which  he  weekly  gives  out,  nor 
"  does  the  negro  rely  upon  it,  as  he  has  many  advantages  if 
"  industrious  and  well  disposed."* 

It  would  be  far  better,  I  believe,  for  the  poor  slaves  in  the 
foreign-fed  colonies  collectively,  if  these  "  many  advantages 
"  of  the  industrious  and  well  disposed''  had  no  existence.  The 
benetit  of  them,  such  as  they  are,  belongs  to  a  very  few,  com- 
pared with  the  whole  number  of  slaves ;  and  those  few  are 
commonly  the  individuals  who  have  the  least  need  of  them, 
viz.  the  drivers  and  the  other  head  negroes,  or  tradesmen  ;  for 
these  generally  if  not  always,  I  believe,  receive  double  allow- 
ances*, though  they  have  by  far  the  lightest  labours.  Yet,  in 
the  controversial  use  of  these  alleged  "  advantages,"  they  are 
usually  magnified  beyond  all  rational  bounds,  and  treated  as 
if  they  were,  or  might  be,  enjoyed  by  the  whole  mass  of  the 
plantation  slaves.  They  have  served  often  to  veil  the  true 
extent  of  the  general  oppression  in  respect  of  food,  from  the 
eyes  of  the  British  people ;  and  from  those  also,  perhaps,  of 
many  proprietors  resident  in  this  country,  who  have  no  per- 
sonal knowledge  of  the  case. 

What  are  these  '^advantages?''  —  Mr.  Thomas,  like  almost 
every  other  colonist  who  has  condescended  to  specify  them, 
referred  to  the  "  produce  of  the  slave's  own  allotment  of  pro- 
"  vision  ground,  his  power  of  selling  it  in  the  markets,  of 
"  raising  hogs,  goats,  and  poultry  ;"  (he  might,  in  reference 

"  provisions  allowed  to  the  negroes  may  be  sufficient  for  their  support :  but 
"  it  is  always  understood,  both  by  the  master  and  the  slave,  that  they  are  not 
"  to  depend  entirely  on  the  provisions  allowed  them,  but  are  expected  to 
"  add  something  to  them  by  their  own  industry." 
*  Commons  Report  of  1790,  p.  250. 

296  Of  the  Subsistence 

to  ordinary  field  negroes,  as  fairly  have  added  horses  and 
cows,)  and  added,  that  "  negroes  wlio  live  on  estates  adjacent 
*'  to  towns,  have  further  advantages,  derived  from  selhng  grass 
*'  and  fuel  to  the  inhabitants." 

In  the  latter  particular  he  spoke  more  accurately  and  fairly 
than  most  gentlemen  of  his  party,  for  they  in  general  would 
lead  their  European  readers  to  believe,  that  not  this  very 
limited  decription  only,  but  all  the  slaves,  even  in  the  largest 
colonies,  have  markets  within  reach,  at  which  all  the  grass 
and  fuel  they  can  collect,  as  well  as  the  ground  provisions 
they  may  have  to  spare,  and  the  live  stock  they  may  raise, 
can  always  be  sold.  This  species  of  delusion  has  probably 
derived  much  countenance  from  the  hasty  conclusions  and 
reports  of  gentlemen  who,  on  visiting  the  islands,  have  seen 
many  negroes  bringing  to  town  such  articles  for  sale,  or  stand- 
ing with  them  in  the  markets,  without  the  means  of  knowing 
that  they  were  the  slaves  only  of  neighbouring  estates,  or  on 
whose  account  they  sold ;  and  without,  perhaps,  reflecting 
how  very  small  the  amount  of  such  traffic  must  be,  and  how 
trivial  the  number  engaged  in  it,  when  compared  with  that  of 
the  whole  black  population.  A  few  further  facts,  and  a  little 
plain  reasoning,  therefore,  on  this  subject,  may  be  useful. 

In  the  first  place,  as,  with  the  exceptions  of  grass  or  fodder, 
and  fuel,  all  these  marketable  articles  must  be  derived  from 
the  slaves'  labours,  at  times  allotted  to  himself,  and  on  his 
own  allotment  of  provision  ground,  it  is  clear  that  where  he 
has  not  time  and  strength  enough  for  such  labours,  or  where 
he  has  no  productive  provision  ground  allotted  to  him,  these 
alleged  advantages,  except  as  above,  can  have  no  existence, 
be  his  disposition  to  industry  what  it  may.  Now  it  has  been 
already  shown,  that  supposing  a  surplus  of  time  and  strength 
beyond  what  are  appropriated  to  the  master's  use,  to  be  left 
to  the  slaves  for  these  commercial  purposes  of  their  own 
(which  the  readers  of  my  chapter  on  labour,  will  I  trust  be 
satisfied  cannot  be  the  case,  except  with  negroes  of  more 
than  ordinary  vigour),  the  allotments  of  provision  grounds  in 
the  old  Leeward  Islands  are  neither  large  enough,  nor  season- 
able and  accessible  enough,  nor  fertile  enough,  to  form  any 
considerable  basis  for  these  advantages,  or  even  for  the  most 

in  the  Foreign-fed  Colonies.  297 

part  to  furnish  the  slave  with  any  material  addition  to  the 
food  so  scantily  supplied  by  the  master.* 

*  In  addition  to  the  evidence  already  cited,  the  following  may  be  worth 
extracting.  "  Many  of  the  estates,^'  said  the  same  witness  last  cited,  "  have 
"  no  mountain  ground  at  all;  in  consequence  of  which  the  proprietor  gives  a 
"  greater  allowance  of  food."  Q.  "  Can  you  say  what  is  the  greatest 
"  allowance  given  where  there  is  no  mountain  ground  ? "  A.  "  The  allow- 
"  ance  out  of  crop-time  is  greater  than  during  the  crop-season ;  but  I  believe 
"  eleven  pints  of  grain  per  week,  besides  an  equal  number  of  herrings,  is 
"  the  greatest  allowance." — Evidence  of  Mr.  Thomas.  Commons  Report 
of  1790,  p.  258. 

The  same  witness  being  asked  "  are  the  islands  of  St.  Christopher  and 
"  Nevis  liable  to  frequent  or  severe  droughts," — answered,  "  They  are 
"  very  much  so  ;  and  I  believe  suffered  much  from  this  cause  during  the 
"  last  two  years  ;  for  during  the  whole  eight  months  that  I  was  last  abroad, 
"■  there  fell  but  twice  any  thing  of  rain  that  might  be  called  a  hard  shower." 
Ibid.  p.  255. 

It  is  obviously  impossible  to  form  any  general  estimate  of  the  deductions 
that  should  be  made  from  the  resource  of  the  provision  grounds  where  any 
such  are  allotted,  on  account  of  these  frequent  droughts,  both  terms  being 
quite  indefinite;  but  that  no  material  increase  of  allowance  is  commonly 
given  on  this  account  is  manifest,  since  neither  this  nor  any  other  witness 
distinguished  it,  or  took  it  into  account,  even  when  stating  the  maximum  of 
allowance  without  any  limitation  of  seasons.  As  Mr.  Thomas  stated 
eleven  pints  to  be  the  greatest  allowance  when  there  are  no  provision 
grounds  at  all,  being  an  increase  upon  his  own  estimate  of  only  two  ninth 
parts  at  most,  it  may  be  confidently  assumed  that  the  increase,  on  account 
of  occasional  droughts  must,  if  any,  be  very  small  indeed. 

But  the  act  of  the  Leeward  Islands  is  more  decisive  on  this  point ;  for  it 
allows  no  diminution  of  the  prescribed  rations  in  any  islands  under  the 
government  on  account  of  the  much  magnified  advantages  in  question,  on 
estates  near  the  towns  ;  nor,  except  in  the  Virgin  Islands,  on  account  of  the 
provision  grounds,  however  productive ;  unless  when  they  are  "  under  culti- 
"  vation  in  the  owner's  time,"  i.  e.  when  they  are  cultivated  by  the  gang  on 
the  master's  account,  at  times  that  would  otherwise  be  employed  in  sugar 
planting.  As  to  the  Virgin  Islands,  where  alone  in  that  government  pro- 
vision grounds  allotted  to  the  slaves  for  their  own  use,  are  on  many  estates 
seasonable,  and  considerable  in  point  of  extent,  the  act  allows  expressly  on 
that  account,  a  diminution  of  imported  or  dry  provisions  out  of  crop,  "  in 
"  the  proportion  only  of  one  fifth  part,"  and  that  only  on  condition  that  the 
owner  "  shall  give  and  allow  to  each  slave  as  much  land  and  time,  as  shall 
"  with  his  labour  thereon  for  such  time,  be  likely  to  produce  the  value  of 
"  the  dry  or  salted  provisions  deducted."  A  proviso  also  is  added  in 
respect  of  the  same  excepted  i'slands,  that  if  the  value  shall  not  be  actually 

298  Of  the  Subsistence 

But  I  would,  in  the  next  place,  and  more  particularly,  call 
the  attention  of  my  readers  to  the  grossness  of  those  impos- 
tures which  represent  these  poor  drudges  in  general,  as  deriving 
from  their  sales  in  the  markets,  any  adequate  or  material 
addition  to  the  master's  supplies.  This  resource,  if  some  of 
the  colonial  fabulists  were  believed,  furnishes  them  with  an 
abundance  of  the  comforts  of  life,  and  even  its  luxurious 
superfluities.  They  grow  rich  even,  we  are  gravely  told,  if 
industrious,  from  this  profitable  marketing  ! ! 

Supposing  the  commodities  in  a  great  degree  attainable  in 
the  foreign-fed,  or  even  in  the  home-fed  colonies,  — where 
are  the  markets  for  80,000  negro  chapmen  in  Barbadoes, 
20,000  in  St.  Christopher,  and  330,000  in  Jamaica?  and 
whence  come  the  buyers  ? 

Jamaica,  as  we  learn  from  Mr.  Bryan  Edwards,  is  one 
hundred  and  fifty  miles  in  length,  by  forty  miles  of  medium 
breadth,  giving  an  area  of  3750  square  miles,  intersected  by 
high  mountains ;  and  it  contains,  by  the  same  authority, 
eight  towns,  being  about  one  to  469  square  miles.  If  the 
towns  were  equally  distributed  over  the  whole  area,  and  each 

produced,  the  difference  shall  be  made  good  to  the  slave.  (See  sect.  2.  p.  16, 
of  the  Papers  before  referred  to.)  If  in  the  most  favoured  spots  of  the  foreign- 
fed  colonies,  and  under  the  most  successful  culture  of  the  provision-grounds, 
they  supply  only  one-fifth  of  the  necessary  food,  it  was  not  without  reason 
that  they  were  in  ordinary  circumstances  thrown  out  of  the  account. 

The  same  act  more  directly  shews  the  insignificancy  of  the  ordinary  allot- 
ments of  provision-grounds  in  many,  or  most  parts  of  the  government;  for 
it  enacts,  that  "  Owners  shall  allot  to  every  slave  capable  of  working  the 
*'  same,  a  piece  or  spot  of  good  well-laying  land  oi forty  feet  square  at  least, 
"  immediately  round  or  close  to  his  liouse,  \i  the  same  can  be  done  without  pull- 
"  ing  down  or  injuring  any  other  negro  house ;  and  if  it  cannot  be  so  done, 
"  then  shall  allot  the  same  quantity  of  land  in  some  part  of  the  plantation 
"  commodious  for  his  working  the  same,  provided  there  is  so  much  land  not 
"usually  planted  in  canes;  and  if  not,  an  annual  compensation  of  equal 
"  value."     (Same  Act,  sect.  6.) 

Negro  houses  are  usually  placed  in  the  driest  parts  of  the  estate.  Let 
the  reader  then  add  to  these  views  the  frequent  droughts  destructive  of  all 
vegetation,  6x(iept  that  of  the  hardy  sugar-cane ;  and  Mr.  Baillie's  admission 
that  "  provision  grounds  do  not  answer  in  those  islands  more  than  one  year 
"  in  three  ;"  and  he  will  be  able  to  estimate  the  value  of  this  boasted  resource 
of  industry,  which  is  the  necessary  basis  of  all  the  rest,  excepting  only  the 
trivial  supply  of  a  neighbouring  town  with  firewood  and  grassv 

in  the  Foreign-fed  Colonies.  299 

town  centrical  to  its  respective  district,  (the  reverse  of  which 
may  be  seen  by  inspecting  any  map  of  the  island,  for  the  towns 
are  all  upon,  or  very  near  the  coast)  still  it  must  be  manifest 
that  a  very  small  proportion  only  of  the  estates  could  be  so 
near  to  any  town,  as  to  make  it  possible  for  the  slaves  to  walk 
to  it  with  their  merchandize,  and  return,  even  on  the  Sabbath, 
supposing  also  the  whole  of  that  day  to  be  at  their  own  dis- 
posal for  the  purpose. 

I  will  follow  the  same  author  in  some  other  statistics  of  a 
more  changeful  kind,  not  knowing  that  they  are  to  be  found 
ni  the  work  of  any  more  recent  opponent. 

Mr.  Edwards  has  furnished  us  with  the  numbers  of  houses 
contained  in  five  of  the  eight  towns  he  mentions ;  apparently 
not  thinking  the  remaining  three  worth  the  same  notice. 
Port  Royal  he  stated  to  contain  about  two  hundred  houses ; 
Savannah-la-Mar,  from  sixty  to  seventy ;  Montego  Bay,  two 
hundred  and  twenty-five  ;  Falmouth,  including  two  adjoining 
villages,  two  hundred  and  twenty  ;  and  Kingston,  the  chief 
town,  the  importance  of  which  he  extols,  1666.  If  they  were 
all  cast  together,  they  would  not  exceed  in  extent  many  a 
market-town  in  this  country. 

But  let  us  next  look  at  his  account  of  their  free  population. 
That  of  Kingston  alone  was  given  by  him,  and  he  stated  it  to 
be  6639  whites,  and  3280  free  coloured  people. 

If  we  suppose  the  other  towns,  the  houses  in  which  are 
given,  to  have  been  peopled  in  an  equal  proportion  to  the 
buildings,  we  shall  have  about  14,017  free  inhabitants  of  towns 
of  all  ages ;  with  a  small  surplus  for  the  three  other  towns^ 
whose  houses  are  not  numbered.  Let  the  whole  be  taken  at 
15,000,  and  every  man,  woman,  and  child  among  them  sup- 
posed to  be  a  customer  at  the  Sunday  markets  ;  then  taking 
the  slaves,  as  they  were  estimated  at  the  same  period,  by  the 
same  authority,  only  at  250,000,  we  shall  have,  instead  of 
many  buyers  to  support  a  single  chapman,  near  seventeen 
chapmen  to  serve  a  single  weekly  buyer. 

If  we  look  at  the  statistics  of  other  colonies,  as  furnished 
in  the  same  volume,  the  case  will  be  found  no  better.  Every 
where  the  free  inhabitants  of  the  towns  are  too  few  to  make 
their  common  demand  for  articles  sold  in  the  negro-markets 
exceed  the  supply   from  adjacent  or  neighbouring  estates  ; 

300  Of  the  Subsistence 

though  the  superior  or  abler  slaves  of  those  estates,  are, 
generally  speaking,  the  only  sellers,  except  a  few  from  more 
distant  parts  on  Sundays. 

To  regard  this  marketing,  therefore,  as  a  resource  import- 
ant to  the  whole  mass  of  plantation  slaves  throughout  the 
respective  colonies,  would  be  to  adopt  a  very  gross  delusion. 

The  articles  brought  to  town  by  the  slaves  for  sale  on  their 
own  account,  are  chiefly,  and  except  on  Sundays,  exclusively, 
grass,  fodder,  and  brushwood  for  fuel ;  all  of  which  their  ne- 
cessities commonly  oblige  them  to  sell  at  prices  oppressively 
low.  A  large  bundle  of  either,  laboriously  collected  and  car- 
ried on  the  head  to  town  at  nightfall,  after  the  toils  of  the 
day,  will  produce  perhaps  to  the  weary  bearer,  less  than 
three-pence  sterling. 

As  to  the  vegetables  and  fruit,  fowls  or  other  live  stock, 
that  are  seen  on  sale  by  negroes,  either  in  their  market-place 
or  elsewhere,  on  any  other  day  of  the  week  than  Sunday,  it 
may  be  with  certainty  concluded  that  the  goods  belong  to  the 
masters ;  and  are  sold  on  their  account. 

The  following  extract,  from  the  evidence  of  Sir  Ashton 
Warner  Byam,  may  serve  suflBciently  to  confirm  these  re- 
marks. Q.  "  How  are  persons  residing  in  the  towns  of  the 
"  different  islands,  and  who  have  no  plantations,  supplied 
"  with  grass,  fodder,  and  vegetables  ?  "  A.  "  The  slaves  of 
*'  the  neighbouring  plantations  bring  grass  and  fodder  every 
"  evening  after  their  hours  of  work,  to  the  towns  for  sale,  for 
"  their  own  benefit ;  and  vegetables  are  brought  by  the  slaves 
"  to  market  on  Sundays,  for  their  own  benefit;  but  on  the 
"  other  days  we  purchase  vegetables  from  the  slaves,  sent  in 
"  by  the  proprietors  of  gardens,  to  be  sold  for  their  master's 
"  benefit."*  It  may  be  added,  that  no  small  number  of 
negroes,  who  are  seen  as  sellers,  even  in  the  Sunday  markets, 
are  notoriously  the  agents  of  their  managers  or  overseers ; 
and  a  still  larger  proportion  are  selling  for  the  drivers,  and 
other  head  negroes,  of  the  estates  from  which  they  come. 

But  to  recur  to  the  impracticable  distance  of  the  markets, 
that  undenied,  and  undeniable  obstacle  to  their  use  by  a  great 
proportion  of  the  slaves  in  every  colony. 

*  Commons' Report  of  1790,  p.  106. 

in  the  Foreign-fed  Colonies.  301 

No  witness,  and  no  writer,  to  my  knowledge,  has  pretended 
that  this  circumstance  is  taken  into  account,  so  as  to  increase 
the  allowances  of  slaves  where  the  market  is  remote.  Sir 
John  Orde,  indeed.  Governor  of  Dominica,  in  his  evidence 
before  the  Privy  Council,  noticed  that  such  a  difference  was 
just.  "  In  an  island,"  he  says,  "  where  some  have  not  a  foot 
"  of  land  to  spare  near  their  estates,  and  others  the  greatest 
"  quantity  ;  where  some  are  near  a  market,  and  others  can 
"  scarce  possibly  get  at  one,  it  would  be  hard,  perhaps,  to 
*^  oblige  all  owners  to  give  the  same  food  to  their  slaves,"  * 
Certainly,  if  enough  was  given,  where  there  was  no  ground  or 
market,  there  might  have  been  some  diminution  where  there 
was  a  concurrence  of  both.  But  I  have  shewn  the  insuffi- 
ciency of  the  ordinary  allowances,  except  when  aided  by  these 
"  advantages,"  to  have  been  admitted  ;  and  yet  it  was  not  pre- 
tended that  the  ordinary  rations  were  increased  in  the  absence 
of  them.  One  or  two  witnesses  only  alleged  a  small  increase, 
when  provision  grounds  were  wanting,  or  unproductive;  but 
not  one  of  the  many,  who  defined  those  rations,  asserted  that 
they  were  greater  on  estates  distant  from  a  market.  The  act  of 
the  Leeward  Islands  too  which  allows  for  the  one,  is  quite  silent 
as  the  other;  and  it  allows  for  provision  grounds,  in  the  way 
only  of  diminution,  from  the  prescribed  subsistence  where  they 
are,  not  by  any  addition  where  they  are  not,  possessed.  It  is  a 
pregnant  proof  of  how  little  these  boasted  marketing  advan- 
tages were  in  the  minds  of  those  who  could  estimate  them 
best,  that  the  vicinage  of  a  town  was  not  at  all  taken  into 
account  in  framing  such  a  law. 

The  fact  is,  that  the  colonists,  throughout  the  whole  of  this 
painful  controversy,  have  practised  that  species  of  unfairness, 
which  they  impute  without  reason  to  their  opponents.  They 
accuse  us  perpetually  of  raising  an  unjust  prejudice  against 
them,  by  citing  particular  instances  of  cruelties,  which,  as  they 
allege,  are  very  rare.  Our  answer,  to  which  no  sound  reply 
has  ever  been  given,  is,  that  our  means  of  proving  them  only, 
not  the  facts  themselves  are  rare,  and  that  considering  the 
systematical  exclusion  of  all  the  natural  evidence  of  such 
facts,  and  all  fair  means  of  their  public   investigation,  the 

*  Privy  Council  Report,  title  Dominica,  Q.  A.  5. 

302  Of  the  Subsistence 

proof  of  a  few,  makes  in  a  high  degree  probable  the  existence 
of  very  many. 

They,  on  the  other  hand,  never  fail  to  generalize  every 
alleviation  of  slavery  that  circumstances,  however  partial  or 
particular,  may  produce.  If  a  few  drivers  or  tradesmen  ac- 
quire a  little  property,  it  is  brought  forward  as  a  proof,  that 
the  field  negroes  in  general  possess,  or  may  by  industry  acquire 
it ;  if  an  odious  character  is  under  peculiar  circumstances, 
and  for  some  atrocious  cruelty  towards  his  slaves,  brought  to 
justice,  they  blazon  it  as  a  proof  that  protecting  slave  laws  in 
general  are  fairly  executed ;  and  in  the  present  instance  the 
local  occasional  advantages  of  a  few,  are  made  a  cloak  for  a 
starving  parsimony  towards  the  many. 

Should  these  frivolous  attempts  to  disguise  or  extenuate  the 
cruel  oppression  prevalent  in  the  foreign-fed  colonies  as  to  their 
scanty  allowances,  be  thought  worth  any  further  answer,  let 
it  be  observed,  that  Dr.  Collins,  to  whom  the  nature  and 
amount  of  these  pretended  aids  of  the  subsistence  given  by 
the  master  were  well  known,  considered  them  as  too  trivial, 
partial,  and  uncertain,  to  be  worth  any  distinction  or  excep- 
tion, either  in  his  strictures  on  the  existing  scantiness  of  the 
master's  allowances,  or  in  his  estimate  of  their  necessary  in- 
crease. Had  they  formed  any  ordinary  or  general  resource, 
he  could  not  have  reasoned  as  he  did  on  the  famishing  insuf- 
ficiency of  the  weekly  rations  of  "  six  or  seven  pints  of  flour  or 
"  grain,  with  as  mani/  salt  herrings"  regarding  them  as  the 
only  nutriment;  nor  could  he  have  asserted,  as  he  solemnly 
did,  on  his  own  "  melancholij  experience,  that  a  great  number  of 
tt  jiegroes  perished,  annually  by  diseases  produced  by  inanitionJ" 

I  will  here  conclude  my  account  of  that  second  grand  head 
of  general  oppression  under  which  these  hapless  fellow-crea- 
tures labour  and  perish,  a  distressful  penury  of  food. 

I  might  justly  add  to  it  very  serious  strictures  on  the 
quality  of  their  provisions ;  for  few  I  believe  will  suppose  a 
diet  wholly  vegetable,  well  fitted  to  sustain  the  strength,  and 
give  full  permanent  support  to  the  constitutions,  of  hard- 
working men  ?  The  proper  or  necessary  quantity  of  admix- 
ture of  animal  food  is  a  different  question  ;  but  it  may  fairly 
be  said,  without  any  material  qualification,  that  the  common 
field-negroes  have  none  at  all ;  for  as  to  the  wretched  modicum 

in  the  Foreign-Jed  Colonies.  303 

of  salt  herring,  or  the  brine  it  is  dissolved  in,  we  have  seen, 
that  even  the  apologists  of  the  system  admit  it  to  be  of  no 
nutritious  value,  and  to  serve  only  as  seasoning  to  the  vegetable 
messes  which  they  boil.     The  pretence  that  they  frequently  eat 
animal  food  of  their  own  raising,  such  as  fowls  and  pork,  if 
applied  to  the  common  field-negroes,  is  not  only  false  but  pre- 
posterous ;    nor  have   many  of  my  opponents    ventured    to 
suggest  it,  even  when  raising  and  exaggerating  to  the  utmost 
every  actual  or  occasional  resource.     It  is  true,  that  the  head- 
negroes,  who  have  double  allowances,  and  possess  various  ad- 
vantages besides,  sometimes  have  a  fowl  or  two,  a  pig,  sheep 
or  goat  of  their  own  raising;  but  even  with  them  it  would  be 
deemed  a  strange  extravagance  to  feed  on  such  costly  luxuries. 
They  dispose  of  them  in  the  markets ;  and  buy  more  necessary, 
or  at  least  cheaper  articles,  with  the  price.     As  to  Mr.  Bar- 
clay, who  gravely  places  in  the  ordinary  bills  of  fare  of  the 
Jamaica  slaves  in  general,  /ish,  and  land-crabs,  I  will  leave 
the  reply  to  those  who  may  think  Gulliver  or  Munchausen 
worthy  of  serious  refutation.     From  such  fables,  however,  we 
may  learn  the  consciousness  of  their  authors,  that  the  want 
of  animal  food  was  a  hardship  not  easy  to  defend. 

But  supposing  vegetable  food  alone  to  suffice,  the  kinds  of 
it  most  commonly  allowed  to  the  slaves  are  indefensibly  bad. 
I  remember  well,  that  when,  during  a  scarcity  and  apprehen- 
sion of  famine  in  this  country,  the  poor  were  in  many  places 
reduced  to  eat  potatoes  and  rice,  as  partial  substitutes  for 
wheaten  bread,  their  common  complaint  was,  that  such  food, 
"  though  it  filled  the  stomach,  was  not  hearty  enough  to  work 
upon."  How  much  less  substantial  the  horse-beans,  or  un- 
ground  Indian  corn,  or  the  wild  yams,  coUaloo  or  spinage,  the 
ochras,  or  other  flimsy  flatulent  vegetables,  on  which  the  poor 
hard-worked  negro  is  often  driven  to  subsist,  without  any  fa- 
rinaceous food  at  all. 

That  men  and  women  so  subsisted,  while  working  sixteen 
hours  in  the  twenty-four,  should  neither  maintain  their  num- 
bers, nor  live  out  half  their  days,  can  excite  no  surprise : 
but  it  may  reasonably  be  a  subject  of  wonder,  that  the  loss  by 
mortality  among  them  is  not  much  greater  than  it  is  ;  or  rather 
than  it  appears  to  be.  If  we  had  returns  of  the  black  popu- 
lation, distinguishing  the  common  field-negroes,  from  the  less- 

304       Of  the  Subsistence  in  the  Foreign-fed  Colonies. 

worked  and  better-fed  part  of  the  plantation  gangs,  and  from 
the  domestic  slaves,  the  loss  would  be  found  much  better 
proportioned  to  the  power  of  the  producing  causes  than  the 
miserably  defective  register  acts  now  enable  us  to  discover. 

But  there  are  in  our  patient  and  plastic  natures,  means 
of  accommodation  to  the  pressure  of  necessity,  far  beyond 
what  without  experience  would  be  easily  believed.  Witness 
the  long  fasts,  during  the  laborious  hunting  excursions,  of  the 
North  American  Indians ;  and  the  preservation  of  ship- 
wrecked mariners,  who  have  lived  for  weeks  on  a  morsel  of 
biscuit  to  each  man  per  day.  It  is  not  strange  then  that,  with 
the  important  aid  of  habit  early  or  slowly  formed,  slaves  have 
been  brought  to  live  long  and  work  hard,  under  such  a  penury 
of  food  as  has  been  here  described.  Happily  perhaps  for  the 
lower  classes  in  civilized  society,  it  has  not  yet  been  ascer- 
tained by  experiment,  in  the  case  oi  free  persons,  how  much 
labour,  with  how  little  food,  human  nature  may  be  trained  to 
endure  for  many  successive  years  ;  or  even  in  vigorous  frames, 
for  the  ordinary  term  of  life.  But  this  problem  has  in  the 
sugar  colonies  been  practically  solved  ;  and  I  have  here  given 
the  sad  results  of  its  solution. 


Section  VI.  —  The  Subsistence  of  the  Slaves  shewn  from  com- 
parative views  to  be  extremely  scanty  and  inadequate. 

Having  now  shewn  what  is  the  ordinary  amount  of  food 
allowed  to  the  slaves,  when  they  depend  wholly  on  the  mas- 
ter's allowances  for  their  support,  I  proceed  to  demonstrate 
more  clearly  its  great  and  cruel  insufficiency. 

This  to  most  of  my  readers  may  appear  a  superfluous  task; 
but  so  imposing  has  been  the  hardihood  of  misrepresentation 
by  the  colonial  party  on  this  subject,  that  its  further  exposure 
may  be  useful.  They  have  alleged,  as  I  have  shewn,  not  only 
that  the  sustentation  of  the  slaves  is  copious  and  liberal,  but 
that  it  is  more  so  than  that  of  the  labouring  poor,  in  this  and 
other  European  countries ;  and  have  found  gentlemen  of 
high  character  to  support  by  their  public  testimony,  those 
extravagant  propositions.  Let  me  shew  then  how  widely 
they  are  refuted  in  those  statements,  both  positive  and  com- 
parative, by  the  data  now  established. 

For  this  purpose,  I  will  first  compare  the  amount  of  the 
weekly  allowances  by  the  master,  where  the  slaves  are  sub- 
sisted in  that  mode,  with  the  ordinary  consumption  of  agricul- 
tural labourers  in  this  country ;  next  with  that  of  other  de- 
scriptions of  persons,  who  are  fed  by  rations  at  the  public 
expense ;  and  afterwards  with  the  subsistence,  of  slaves  in 
other  countries,  or  under  other  circumstances,  as  far  as  I  can 
find  satisfactory  information  on  that  subject.  The  comparison 
cannot  be  extended  in  so  direct  a  manner  to  the  home-fed 
colonies ;  because  the  quantum  of  food  obtained  by  slaves 
who  raise  their  own  provisions,  cannot  be  ascertained,  or  re- 
duced to  an^r  probable  average.  But  I  refer  to  the  reasons 
already  given  for  believing,  that  though  the  case  from  local 
circumstances  is,  in  a  general  view,  probably  not  so  bad  in 
Jamaica,  or  perhaps  in  some  other  colonies  of  that  description, 
as  where  the  subsistence  is  immediately  and  wholly  a  charge 
on  the  planter's  purse,  the  same  avaricious  principle,  by  with- 
holding a  sufficient  allowance  of  time,  and  exhausting  the 
strength  of  the  slaves  in  forced  labour  for  the  master,  pro- 
duces in  a  great  degree  the  same  oppressive  effects. 

VOL,    II.  X 

306  The  Insitlfkieiicy  of  the  Subsistence 

I  have  noticed  before,  that  Mr.  Tobin  defended  the  weekly 
allowances,  on  the  assumption  that  they  did  not  average  more 
than  six  pints  of  corn  or  meal,  and  six  herrings ;  and  main- 
tained that  such  subsistence  was  equal  to  that  which  an 
English  labourer  could  purchase  by  his  weekly  earnings. 
My  readers  must  be  curious  to  know  how  so  strange  a  pro- 
position was  made  out;  and  I  will,  therefore,  give  the  argu- 
ment in  his  own  words. 

"  A  negro  for  himself,  his  wife  and  four  children,  receives 
"  thirty-six  pints  of  flour,  &c.  and  thirty-six  herrings.  The 
"  labourer  earns  six  shillings  a  week  to  support  himself,  his 
"  wife  and  his  four  children.  With  his  six  shillings  he  purchases 
'*  a  bushel  of  wheat;  he  carries  it  to  the  mill,  and  brings  home 
"  two-thirds,  or  say  even  three-fourths,  of  it  in  flour.  He  has 
"  therefore  at  most,  but  forty-eight  pints  of  flour  to  divide 
"  among  his  family  ;  or  two  pints  a  week  each  more  than  the 
"  negro ;  which  difference  is  amply  made  up  by  the  negro's 
"  herrings."  * 

Strange  enough  is  this  mode  of  comparing  the  two  cases ; 
and  stranger  still  the  premises  tacitly  assumed  for  the  purpose. 
The  simplest,  if  not  the  only  fair  subjects  of  comparison,  ob- 
viously would  have  been  the  quantum  of  food  allowed  to  one 
working  slave,  and  the  value  in  subsistence  of  the  wages 
earned  by  one  free  labourer.  To  resort  to  the  cases  of  fami- 
lies, therefore,  was  at  best  needlessly  to  embarrass  the  ques- 
tion ;  but  it  was  certainly  highly  convenient  and  necessary 
for  the  author's  purpose,  to  multiply  the  slave's  rations  six- 
fold, by  assigning  to  him  a  wife  and  four  children  all  too 
young  for  work,  and  to  reduce  the  food  of  the  freeman  derived 
from  his  wages  in  the  same  proportion,  by  assigning  to  him 
a  like  family.  If  such  cases  were  the  most  ordinary  ones  in 
either  country,  or  equally  common  in  both,  the  selecting  them 
for  the  purposes  of  this  comparison  might  not  have  been  un- 
fair;  but  even  in  England,  the  labourers  who  have  wives  and 
four  children  under  the  age  of  work  are  comparatively  few ; 
and  in  the  West  Indies  it  would  be  a  large  estimate  to  say 
that  it  is  the  case  of  one  field-negro  in  a  thousand ;  as  the 
known  state  of  their  population  may  suffice  to  prove.     In  re- 

*  Cursory  Remarks,  p.  60. 

sheivnjroiu  comparative  Views.  307 

gard  therefore  to  the  ordinary  case  of  the  labouring  classes, 
in  both  countries,  the  comparison  was  irrelevant  as  well  as 
deceptions.  But  it  was  built  also  on  groundless  assumptions. 
A  labourer's  family  here,  comprising  so  many  young  children, 
rarely  if  ever  depends  on  the  father's  wages  alone  for  sup- 
port. If  the  wife  and  children  cannot  contribute  to  it,  the 
parish  for  the  most  part  does  so.  In  many  or  more  districts, 
the  havino;  even  two  children  under  the  working  aae,  consti- 
tutes  systematically  a  claim  on  the  overseers. 

The  assumption  on  the  other  side  of  the  account,  that  the 
planter  multiplies  his  allowances  to  his  slave,  when  a  father, 
by  the  number  of  his  family,  giving  him,  in  addition  to  his 
own  weekly  rations,  equal  ones  for  the  wife  and  every  child, 
was  still  more  unfounded.  No  such  practice  does,  or  ever  did 
exist ;  and  I  recollect  no  assertion  of  it  by  any  witness,  or  any 
other  writer,  on  the  colonial  side.  The  most  that  is  done,  or 
alleged  to  be  done,  in  such  cases,  is  the  giving  some  additional 
allowance  to  the  mother,  and  even  this  I  believe  is  rare,  except 
when  she  has  an  infant  to  suckle. 

Few  comparatively  among  the  common  field-negroes  have 
wives,  or  women  recognised  and  steadily  cohabiting  with 
them  as  such ;  and  when  they  have,  the  wife  receives  her  own 
allowance  without  the  husband's  intervention  or  controul. 
She  commonly  works  as  hard  as  he  does ;  and  requires  an 
equal  measure  of  subsistence ;  nor  can  he  derive  any  benefit 
from  her  allowances,  unless  she  chooses  to  aggravate  her 
own  wants,  by  the  voluntary  alleviation  of  his.  As  to  the 
weaned  children  in  foreign-fed  colonies,  they  are  most  com- 
monly fed,  till  of  an  age  for  work,  by  the  master,  and  not  the 
parents.  Their  food  is  generally  prepared  for  them  in  the 
way  that  is  called  "  j)ot  feeding,"  by  a  nurse  or  old  woman 
appointed  to  take  care  of  them,  who  receives  the  materials 
from  the  stores.  But  even  where  the  practice  is  different,  the 
parents  can  derive  no  benefit  from  a  child's  allowance,  which 
is  as  much  less  than  an  adult's,  as  its  necessities  are  estimated 
to  permit. 

These  statements,  it  should  be  observed,  relate  only  to  the 
foreign-fed  colonies,  where  the  slaves  depend  on  the  master's 
rations  for  support.  But  so  did  Mr.  Tobin's  also.  Would  his 
premises,  however,  or  his  comparison,  have  been  more  sustain- 

X  2 

308  Tke  Insufficiency  of  the  Subsistence 

able,  if  applied  to  colonies  where  the  slaves  raise  their  own  sub- 
sistence from  the  provision-grounds  ?  By  no  means.  On  the 
contrary,  the  case  there  is  still  worse  in  respect  of  slaves  who 
have  children  too  young  for  work ;  because  the  father  or  mother, 
or  both,  if  they  would  not  see  their  infants  in  want  of  food,  must 
raise  enough  for  them  as  well  as  themselves,  none  being  allowed 
by  the  master,  and  no  additional  time  being  given  to  the  parents 
on  that  account.  I  venture  to  state  these  two  last  facts  on 
private  information  only ;  but  such  as  I  can  entirely  rely  upon. 
It  cannot  be  expected  that  I  should  be  able  to  cite  the  express 
evidence  of  opponents  for  every  negative  proposition  ;  and  here 
the  information  seems  to  me  not  only  very  credible  in  its  na- 
ture (for  where  the  only  stores  that  the  planter  provides  for 
his  slaves  in  general  are  salt  herrings,  it  would  be  highly  in- 
convenient and  troublesome  to  purchase  vegetable  food  for 
the  daily  use  of  the  children  alone),  but  to  derive  strong  con- 
firmation from  the  silence  of  colonial  witnesses  and  writers  on 
this  subject.  The  same  persons  who  have  admitted,  in  general 
terms,  as  to  Jamaica  and  other  home-fed  colonies,  that  the 
slaves  raise  all  their  own  provisions,  herrings  excepted,  would 
not  have  omitted  to  add  the  exception  of  food  purchased  for 
the  children,  or  to  inform  us  that  the  parents  were  allowed 
extra  time  to  raise  it  for  them,  if  such  had  been  the  case ;  but 
I  find  neither  of  these  practices  any  where  taken  credit  for ; 
or  any  distinction  made  between  slaves  who  have,  and  those 
who  have  not  families,  as  to  the  time  allowed  them  for  what 
is  called  ''  working  for  themselves." 

But  let  us  return  to  Mr.  Tobin's  comparison: — the  only 
one  that  has  descended  from  vague  generalities  into  specifica- 
tions with  which  it  is  possible  to  grapple. 

To  find  fault  with  his  assumed  rate  of  wages,  may  seem 
hardly  worth  while  ;  but  wages,  I  conceive,  were  averaged  too 
low  at  six  shillings,  though  he  took  wheat  at  six  shillings  a 
bushel.  The  author  also  took  care  to  add  in  a  note  that  the 
price  was  sometimes  as  high  as  eight  or  nine  shillings  ;  but 
omitted  to  notice  that  wages  commonly  rose  in  proportion. 
The  part  of  England,  with  the  agricultural  state  of  which  I 
am  best  acquainted,  the  north-western  districts  of  Buck- 
inghamshire, is  one  in  which  the  condition  of  the  farmers 
and  their  labourers,  is,  from  -the  general  poverty  of  the  soil, 

shetvn  from  comparative  Views.  309 

and  other  known  causes,  rather  below,  tlian  above,  the  average 
of  the  kingdom  at  large  ;  yet  there,  while  I  write,  wheat  is 
at  about  six  shillings  a  bushel,  and  full  wages  at  nine  shil- 
lings a  week.  If  these  proportions  be  not  more  than  com- 
monly in  the  labourer's  favour,  Mr.  Tobin's  premises  were  in 
this  respect  also  erroneous,  to  the  extent  of  no  less  than  one- 
third  part :  he  should  have  allowed  to  the  English  labourer  a 
bushel  and  a  half,  instead  of  a  bushel  per  week,  as  what  his 
wages  might  purchase. 

To  his  proposition,  that  the  wheat,  when  reduced  into  flour, 
will  lose  one-fourth  of  its  bulk,  T  object  only  the  manifest  in- 
consistency of  his  not  making  any  such  deduction  from  the 
negro's  allowance  ;  though  this,  as  we  have  seen,  even  on  his 
own  authority  in  his  parliamentary  evidence,  consists  often  of 
Guinea  or  Indian  corn,  and  other  unground  grain;  and  fre- 
quently, as  other  planters  admitted,  of  horse-beans. 

But  my  readers  will  probably  think  that  errors  of  one-third 
and  one-fourth  part,  might  well  have  been  left  unnoticed, 
after  those  gigantic  ones  which  multiplied  the  slave's  allow- 
ance by  six,  and  divided  by  the  same  number  the  produce  of 
the  free  labourer's  wages,  affecting  the  comparison  as  between 
single  men,  in  the  ratio  of  twelve  to  one.  Had  his  premises 
and  reasoning  been  correct,  the  consequences  would  strangely 
have  been,  that  in  his  English  family  case,  there  would  have 
been  too  little  food  by  five-sixths ;  or  too  much  in  his  West 
India  family  case,  in  the  same  proportion  ;  but  as  to  the  un- 
married labourers  in  the  respective  countries,  the  contrast, 
very  adversely  to  his  purpose,  would  have  been  inverted.  In 
England,  each  single  labourer  would  have  gained  enough  to 
feed  six  mouths  ;  in  the  West  Indies,  enough  only  for  his 

Mr.  Tobin's  criterion,  however,  if  fairly  applied  to  the  clearly 
intelligible  case  of  single  men,  is  one  of  the  simplest  and  best 
that  can  bo  found  to  determine,  either  in  a  positive  or  com- 
parative view,  the  sufficiency  of  the  slave's  subsistence.  I  will 
therefore  endeavour  to  ascertain  more  truly  and  accurately 
than  he  did,  the  nutritious  value  of  the  slave's  allowances  on 
the  one  hand,  and  the  quantity  of  like  nutriment  that  the  free 
nuui  may  purchase  with  his  wages  on  the  other.     What  the 

310  The  Insufficiency  of  the  Subsistence 

latter  does  purchase,  and  consume,  is  a  different  consideration, 
but  one  which  I  shall  afterwards  notice. 

The  first  step  in  such  an  enquiry  is  to  reduce,  if  we  can,  the 
nutritious  value  of  the  food  in  both  cases,  to  a  known  and 
common  standard  ;  which  must  be  that  of  wheat  flour  ;  being 
the  article  on  which  our  labourers  are  chiefly  fed,  and  which 
alone  is  sometimes  common  to  them  and  the  slaves ;  and  the 
nutritive  value  of  which  also,  we  well  know  from  experience  in 
this  country.  This  problem  however,  cannot  be  easily  solved, 
so  as  to  do  full  justice  to  my  own  side  of  the  controversy  ;  not 
only  because  the  horse  beans,  and  the  unground  Indian  or 
Guinea  corn,  &,c,,  are  here  unknown  as  articles  of  human  food, 
but  because  the  colonial  evidence  leaves  it  wholly  uncertain  in 
what  proportions  respectively  to  the  flour  those  articles  con- 
stitute the  ordinary  rations  of  the  slaves.  I  must  in  conse- 
quence be  content  to  rely  on  evidence  by  which  the  colonial 
side  of  the  question  was,  as  there  is  every  reason  to  believe, 
unduly  and  greatly  favoured. 

The  act  of  the  Leeward  Islands,  as  we  have  seen,  takes 
nine  pints  of  whole  corn  or  beans,  as  equivalent  to  eight  pints 
of  wheat  flour  ;  for  in  professing  to  enforce  the  adequate  sub- 
sistence of  slaves,  that  was  the  ratio  in  which  the  act  allowed 
the  different  articles  to  be  commuted,  at  the  masters'  election, 
for  each  other.  This,  I  conceive,  to  have  much  disparaged  the 
flour;  for  I  cannot  believe  that  a  pint  of  unground  Guinea 
corn,  Indian  corn,  or  beans,  can  yield  as  much  nutriment  to 
the  human  frame  within  one  ninth  part,  as  a  pint  of  wheaten 
flour  separated  from  the  bran  ! 

I  will  adhere,  however,  to  my  ordinary  rule  of  not  taking 
into  my  calculations  any  thing  that  I  cannot  support  by  colo- 
nial authority.  Let  it  be  supposed  therefore  that  the  allow- 
ances, in  whatever  form  given,  are  equal  in  point  of  nutrition 
to  eight  ninth  parts  of  so  much  wheat  flour.  I  will  be  content 
further  to  sujjpose  that  the  number  of  pints  given  weekly,  on 
an  average  of  all  seasons  of  the  year,  is  seven  ;  which  being  a 
pint  per  diem,  will  simplify  computation,  and  I  will  waive  the 
deduction  of  one  ninth  part,  since  it  cannot  be  ascertained  in 
what  degree  corn  and  beans  constitute  the  food.  On  the 
other  hand  let  the  salt  herring,  as  for  reasons  already  given  it 
fiirly  may,  hv.  fairly  thrown  out  of  the  account.      Let  it  be 

sheivti  from  comparative  Views.  311 

supposed  then  that  the  slaves  in  the  foreign-fed  colonies 
receive,  on  an  average,  a  subsistence  equal  to  fourteen  ounces 
of  wheaten  flour  per  diem;  for  this  is  the  utmost  weight  of  a 
pint  of  flour. 

What  proportion,  let  us  next  enquire,  does  this  bear  to  the 
quantity  of  the  same  article  which  an  English  agricultural 
labourer  can  obtain  from  his  wages  ?  As  the  rates  of  vvaoes 
vary  greatly  in  different  parts  of  the  country,  and  at  different 
seasons  of  the  year,  and  in  a  considerable  degree  with  the 
price  of  bread,  and  are  now  unhappily  blended  with  parochial 
allowances  from  the  poor  rates,  their  average  cannot  be  clearly 
ascertained:  but  if  we  suppose  an  unmarried  labourer  so  con- 
stantly employed  as  to  make  no  calls  on  the  parish,  to  receive 
nine  shillings  per  week  when  wheat  is  at  six  shillings  per 
bushel,  it  will  not,  1  conceive,  be  too  favourable  a  view  of  the 
general  case.  At  that  price  flour  will  be  about  three  half  pence 
per  pound.  His  wages  then,  if  laid  out  in  flour,  would  pro- 
duce him  seventy-two  pounds  per  week,  or  ten  pounds,  four 
ounces  and  a  half  per  day.  Difference  in  his  favour  when  com- 
pared with  the  slave,  sixty  five  pounds  fourteen  ounces  weekly, 
and  nine  pounds  six  ounces  and  a  half  d-aily;  being  about 
eleven  and  a  half  to  one. 

If  we  take  the  amount  in  bread,  instead  of  flour,  the  differ- 
ence will  be  still  greater  ;  for  without  any  trouble,  or  cost  for 
kneading  or  baking,  the  English  labourer  may  obtain  for  the 
same  wages  seventy  eight  pounds  and  three  ounces  of  good 
well  baked  bread  ;*  whereas  the  poor  slave  has  no  baker's  shop 
to  resort  to  ;  but  must  work  up  the  raw  and  gross  materials  of 
his  allowance  into  an  eatable  form,  how  he  may,  at  a  cost  of 
time  and  labour  he  can  very  ill  afford,  and  with  a  certain  loss 
in  its  nutritious  powers  from  its  crude  and  hasty  preparation. 

*  I  take  here  the  weight  of  the  quartern  loaf  at  four  pounds  five  ounces 
and  a  half,  and  the  price  at  sixpence,  being  the  right  proportion  to  the  as- 
sumed price  of  wheat,  viz.  six  shillings  per  bushel.  These  were  the  prices 
when  this  calculati9n  was  long  since  made ;  and  wages  at  the  same  place 
were  nine  shillings  per  week ;  but  both  have  since  been,  and  I  believe 
are,  materially  different.  To  fix  the  present  rates  would  hardly  be  worth 
delay,  as  such  data  obviously  can  have  no  general  and  stable  accuracy. 
Let  the  reader  then  make  whatever  allowances  or  corrections  he  thinks 
reasonable.     INIy  argument  can  abundantly  spare  abatements. 

312  The  Imujjiciencij  oj  the  Subsistence 

We  have  seen  thata  piece  of  bread,  or  a  ship's  biscuit,  is  so  much 
more  strengthening  to  him  than  his  ordinary  food,  that  it  is 
given  as  a  cordial  to  sustain  him  in  the  most  arduous  kinds  of 
work ;  and  that  eight  pounds  of  this  latter  article  weekly  is 
by  the  act  of  the  Leeward  Islands,  regarded  as  an  equivalent 
for  the  raw  allowances. 

While  these  facts  demonstrate  the  utter  falsehood  and  ex- 
travagance of  the  common  though  strange  pretext  of  my  op- 
ponents, that  the  slave's  condition,  as  to  means  of  subsistence, 
is  equal  to  that  of  the  free  labourer  in  this  country  ;  they  fall 
short,  it  may  be  said,  of  proving  that  the  former  is  in  fact 
more  scantily  fed  than  the  latter ;  for  the  English  labourer 
does  not,  and  cannot  spend  all  his  wages  in  bread  or  flour. 

Certainly  not,  I  admit;  nor  if  he  is  a  single  man,  one  half 
perhaps  of  his  weekly  nine  shillings ;  but  it  is  because  he 
spends  the  rest  in  a  manner  more  to  his  comfort,  or  more  at 
least  to  his  mind.  He  adds  to  his  bread  and  flour,  pudding, 
fat  bacon  and  cheese,  of  which  our  cottagers  are  no  small  con- 
sumers ;  and  not  only  some  tea  and  sugar,  but  occasionally 
some  butcher's  meat,  though  in  portions  I  am  sorry  to  admit 
but  scanty.  He  spends  something  too,  and  often  much  more 
than  is  prudent,  in  that  wholesome  beverage  malt  liquor. 
These,  and  other  humble  luxuries,  to  which  the  poor  negro  is 
equally  a  stranger,  vary  the  modes  of  the  free  labourer's  sub- 
sistence ;  but  should  this  be  thought  in  any  point  doubtful, 
or  unimportant,  still  the  substantial  fact  remains,  that  he  has 
nine  shillings  a  week  for  his  labour,  equal  to  the  purchase  of 
seventy-two  pounds  of  flour,  while  the  negro  has  only  seven 
pints  of  flour,  weighing  each  fourteen  ounces,  or  their  esti- 
mated value  in  other  articles  of  an  inferior  kind. 

"  But  the  peasant  has  also  to  find  his  own  clothes.'"  Granted  ; 
and  he  does  find  them,  of  a  kind  and  in  a  quantity  so  very  far 
superior  to  those  which  the  planter  allows  to  his  slaves,  that  it 
may  be  safely  affirmed,  the  clothing  of  six  of  them  does  not 
cost  as  much  as  that  of  one  free  labourer.  I  shall  prove  this 
clearly  in  a  subsequent  division  of  the  subject  of  maintenance. 
There  is  no  point  in  which  the  contrast  between  the  two  states 
is  at  once  so  striking,  and  so  clearly  beyond  dispute. 

"The  labourer  has  also  rent  to  pay  for  his  cottage,"  it  is 
added.       Doubtless;    and  a  serious  charge  it  would  some- 

shewn  from  comparative  Views.  313 

times  be,  if  to  be  defrayed  out  of  liis  ordinary  weekly  wages. 
It  is  commonly  provided  for  by  his  extra  gains  at  harvest  time, 
and  other  incidental  resources,  v.hicii  my  opponents  leave  out 
of  the  account.  They  reason  most  inconsistently  in  doing  so; 
for  they  value  against  the  poor  slave,  whose  time  is  not  his 
own  during  sixteen  hours  out  of  the  twenty  four,  every  pos- 
sibility of  adding  to  his  subsistence  by  voluntary  industry 
during  the  remainder,  and  on  the  Sabbath  days  ;  and  yet  al- 
low to  the  English  labourer  however  industrious,  no  such 
means  of  adding  to  his  ordinary  wages  ;  though,  with  the  full 
enjoyment  of  tlie  Sabbath  rest,  he  has  fifteen  hours  on  an 
average  on  the  other  six  days  not  employed  in  his  master's 

Have  these  gentlemen, besides,  never  heard  of  working  "by 
"  the  great"  or  "  the  piece"  and  of  the  great  increase  of  wages 
that  a  man  of  superior  industry  may  earn  that  way?  or  do 
they  suppose,  that  there  are  no  other  means  by  which  a 
thrifty  handworking  man  in  this  country  may  employ  his 
spare  time  to  advantage  ?  Every  labourer  has  not,  I  admit 
with  concern,  a  garden  to  his  cottage,  or  any  other  piece  of 
ground  that  he  can  cultivate ;  though  such  advantages  are 
attainable  here  by  prudent  and  industrious  peasants,  more 
generally,  and  in  a  far  greater  degree  than  by  a  great  ma- 
jority of  the  slaves  in  our  foreign  fed  colonies ;  and  there  are 
various  other  means  by  which  such  men  occasionally  may, 
and  do,  add  to  their  domestic  comforts ;  especially  when 
seconded  by  the  good  conduct  of  their  wives  and  children. 
That  a  great  number  of  our  single,  and  many  even  of  our 
married  labourers,  neglect  all  such  means,  and  loiter  away 
their  many  evening  hours,  or  spend  them  at  an  ale-house,  is 
too  true ;  but  even  their  ability  to  do  this,  might  afford  a  con- 
clusive argument  that  they  are  not  distressed  like  the  poor 
negro,  by  actual  hunger,  or  scantiness  of  food. 

Medical  care  in  sickness,  another  topic  of  comparison  often 
brought  forward  by  my  opponents,  shall  be  hereafter  dis- 
cussed : — they  seem  not  to  know  that  it  is  here  provided  by 
the  parish,  or  by  public  hospitals.  But  my  immediate  subject 
is  food;  and  it  may  be  fairly  assumed,  that  this  first  and  most 
urgent  demand  of  nature,  will  not  be  left  unsatisfied,  the 
wages  sufficing  to  answer  it,  though  the  clothes  should  be 

314  The  Insujfkiencj/  of  the  Subsistence 

unbought,  and  the  landlord  and  apothecary  unpaid.  It  is 
amply  enough,  therefore,  for  my  present  purpose,  to  have 
proved  that  the  labourer's  wages  will  procure  for  him,  if  not 
an  abundance  of  provisions,  at  least  ten  or  eleven  times  as 
much  in  quantity,  and  far  better  in  kind,  than  those  to  which 
the  poor  negro  is  restricted. 

Means,  however,  are  not  wanting  to  prove  more  directly 
that  our  agricultural  labourers,  in  fact,  consume  a  much 
greater  quantity  of  provisions  than  the  plantation  slave  is 
allowed  ;  as  well  as  of  a  far  more  wholesome  and  nutritious 

In  the  present  depressed  state  of  agriculture,  the  overseers 
in  many  country  parishes  the  most  overburthened  with  poor, 
have,  with  the  concurrence  of  the  neighbouring  magistrates, 
established  a  standard  for  the  minimum  of  allowances  from 
the  poor  rates  to  labourers  out  of  employment,  or  who  can 
find  work  only  on  the  parish  account,  or  at  such  low  wages  as 
must  be  aided  from  the  parochial  purse;  in  which  standard 
they  have  adopted,  as  the  basis  of  calculation,  the  ratio  of  a 
half  peck  loaf  weekly,  for  each  individual  in  the  labourer's 
family,  however  young,  that  depends  on  him  for  support,  as 
indispensably  necessary  to  keep  them  from  actual  want. 
When  the  wages  will  not  purchase  so  much  bread,  the  differ- 
ence is  made  good  from  the  rates. 

Now  a  half-peck  loaf  contains  eight  pounds  eleven  ounces 
of  good  wheaten  bread  ;  which  is  one  pound  three  ounces  and 
a  half  per  diem  for  each  individual,  the  children  included: 
whereas  the  adult  hard-working  slave,  as  we  have  seen,  has 
only  fourteen  ounces  of  raw  flour  for  each  day  ;  or  such  a 
quantity  of  corn  or  horsebeans,  as,  notwithstanding  the  esti- 
mate of  the  Leeward  Island  assembly,  can  hardly  be  deemed 
an  adequate  commutation. 

For  further  satisfaction  on  this  interesting  subject,  I  have 
taken  pains  to  learn,  through  the  best  channels  of  information, 
the  experience  of  village  bakers,  what  quantity  of  bread  our 
country  labourers  actually  consume  in  ordinary  cases  ;  and 
find  by  several  concurrent  accounts,  that  a  single  man  gene- 
rally consumes  at  least  three  quartern  loaves  weekly,  with  a 
quantity  of  flour  in  addition,  equal  to  half  of  another  quartern 
loaf;  and  that  in  families,  the  consumption   is  at  the  rate  of 

shewn  from  comparative  Views.  315 

two  quartern  loaves  weekly  for  each  individual,  children  in- 
cluded, without  reckoning  the  flour,  which  they  purchase  to 
be  prepared  for  family  use  in  other  forms  of  food. 

Though  by  no  means  necessary  for  my  present  purpose,  it 
ought  not  to  be  left  out  of  the  account,  that  where  the  man 
works  hardest,  he  requires  the  most  support.  Now  let  it  be  re- 
collected, that  the  average  time  of  the  free  labourer's  work,  is 
not  more  than  nine  hours  in  twenty-four;  while  that  of  the 
slave,  in  crop-time,  is  twice  as  much  ;  and  on  an  average  of  the 
whole  year,  sixteen.  It  should  also  be  remembered  that  the 
one,  is  performed  in  a  climate  where  the  frame,  at  most  sea- 
sons, loses  little  by  perspiration ;  the  other,  where  the  waste 
from  that  cause  is  always  so  great  as  to  demand  an  increased 

To  shew  the  difference  made  by  these  causes,  when  com- 
bined, I  might  adduce  the  case  of  our  own  labourers  in  time  of 
harvest;  for  they  are  then,  in  many  places,  fed  by  the  em- 
ployer ;  and  I  have  been  astonished  to  hear  from  friends 
engaged  in  agriculture,  of  the  large  quantities  their  workmen 
consume  at  that  season,  not  merely  of  their  ordinary  provi- 
sions, but  of  animal  food,  which  they  have  little  of  at  other 
seasons,  and  of  that  nutritious  beverage,  beer,  to  which  the 
poor  negro  is  at  all  times  a  stranger.  When  they  feed  them- 
selves at  their  own  charge,  they  probably  may  live  less  freely  ; 
but  a  much  higher  rate  of  wages  in  harvest-time  enables 
them  to  supply,  as  they  doubtless  do  in  a  great  degree,  those 
enlarged  demands  of  nature,  which  are  consequent  on  an  in- 
creased intensity  and  duration  of  their  work,  combined  with 
the  heat  of  the  season. 

I  will  not  pursue  further  this  comparison,  as  there  is,  in 
truth,  after  all,  nothing  homogeneous  in  the  subjects.  When 
the  English  labourers  are  forced  to  live  on  unground  Guinea 
corn  and  horse-beans,  to  toil  during  sixteen  hours  in  the 
twenty-four,  and  watch  and  work  through  the  remaining 
eight  on  alternate  nights,  for  five  months  in  the  year  ;  when 
they  cannot  rest  even  on  the  Sabbath-day,  and  when  their 
wives  and  children,  instead  of  being  helpmates,  under  their 
own  domestic  government  and  protection,  are,  like  themselves, 
the  property  of  a  master,  on  whom,  and  not  their  parents, 
their  well  or  ill  being  wholly  depends  ;  in  a  word,  when  our 

316  The  Insu()iciencij  ofthe  Subsistence 

soil  is  tilled  not  by  free  fellow-subjects,  but  by  the  most  de- 
graded and  oppressed  of  slaves,  it  will  be  time  enough  to 
compare  their  different  situations  as  to  the  quantity  of  food. 
At  present  a  comparison,  in  that  respect,  of  the  field  negroes, 
with  the  draught  cattle  in  their  owner's  stables,  would  be, 
in  a  just  view  fairer,  and  rather  more  illustrative.  I  deem  it, 
nevertheless,  not  unimportant  to  shew  how  clearly  my  op- 
ponents, who  have  had  the  strange  boldness  to  compare  the 
two  conditions,  would  be  refuted  by  their  own  evidence,  even 
if  we  were  to  estimate  the  state  of  a  rational,  a  moral,  and 
immortal  being  by  the  standard  of  the  manger  or  the  trough. 

I  will  not  content  myself,  however,  with  having  thus  re- 
torted on  the  planters  the  comparison  they  have  rashly  pro- 
voked. Let  them  turn,  if  they  will,  from  our  free  and  self- 
maintained  peasantry,  to  our  criminal  vagrants  and  felons, 
when  fed  at  the  public  charge.  Let  them  ransack  our  houses 
of  correction  and  our  gaols;  and  find  there,  if  they  can,  any 
parallel  to  that  cruel  parsimony  with  which  they  feed  their 
innocent  hard-working  slaves. 

For  this  purpose  an  abundance  of  authoritative  information 
may  be  found  in  an  appendix  to  the  seventh  printed  Report 
of  the  Committee  of  the  Society  for  the  Improvement  of 
Prison  Discipline,  &c. ;  from  which  1  extract  the  following- 
particulars  : — 

In  the  Bedfordshire  Penitentiary,  each  prisoner  is  allowed 
two  pounds  of  bread  daily  ;  and  if  at  hard  labour  a  quart  of 
soup  for  dinner  is  added. 

In  the  Cambridge  Countij  Gaol  and  House  of  Correction, 
every  prisoner  on  hard  labour  is  allowed  three  pounds  of  bread 
daily,  and  a  pint  of  small  beer. 

In  the  Leicestershire  House  of  Correction,  the  allowances 
are  two  pounds  of  bread  per  day,  and  three  pints  of  gruel. 
Those  prisoners  who  are  at  hard  larbour,  have  in  addition 
daily  one  pint  of  new  milk  at  breakfast,  and  twice  a  week  a 
pint  of  good  meat  soup  at  dinner,  instead  ofthe  gruel. 

In  the  Gloucestershire  Countij  Gaol  and  Petiitentiary,  the 
dietary  for  prisoners  who  labour  is  as  follows — one  pound 
and  a  half  of  the  best  bread  daily,  and  for  breakfast,  one 
ounce  and  a  half  of  oatmeal,  with  salt,  leeks,  or  other  vege- 
tables in  season,  made  into  gruel.     They  have,  in  addition,  for 

shtwn  fioni  comparative  Views.  317 

their  dinners,  on  Tuesdays  and  Fridays,  three  quarters  of  a 
pint  of  peas  made  into  a  soup  with  legs  and  shins  of  beef;  on 
Mondays  and  Saturdays  two  pounds  and  a  half  of  potatoes ; 
on  Sundays  and  Wednesdays  two  ounces  and  a  half  of  rice, 
and  two  ounces  of  oatmeal  made  into  soup,  with  legs  and 
shins  of  beef;  and  on  Thursdays  half  a  pound  of  beef  without 
bone,  and  one  pound  of  potatoes. 

In  the  Millbank  General  Penitentiary  their  allowances  are — 
for  breakfast,  a  quarter  of  a  pint  of  milk  mixed  with  water, 
and  boiled  with  half  an  ounce  of  flour,  together  with  half  a 
pound  of  bread.  For  supper  the  same  articles.  For  dinner, 
on  Sundays,  Tuesdays,  and  Thursdays,  six  ounces  of  beef,  ex- 
clusive of  bone  and  loss  of  weight  in  boiling,  with  half  a  pint 
of  the  broth  made  therefrom,  one  pound  of  potatoes,  and  half 
a  pound  of  bread.  On  Mondays,  Wednesdays,  and  Fridays, 
one  quart  of  the  preceding  day's  boiling  liquor,  thickened 
with  Scotch  barley,  rice,  potatoes,  or  peas ;  with  the  addition 
of  cabbage,  turnips,  or  other  cheap  vegetables,  one  pound  of 
boiled  potatoes,  and  half  a  pound  of  bread.  On  Saturday 
two  ounces  of  cheese,  and  one  pound  of  bread,  with  onions. 

The  dietaries  of  various  other  prisons  are  specified  in  the 
same  report ;  and  though  there  are  considerable  differences  be- 
tween them,  both  in  the  qualities  and  quantities  of  food,  the 
most  parsimonious  subsistence  to  be  found  among  them,  with 
one  or  two  exceptions,  cannot  be  regarded  as  less  in  their 
nutritious  value  than  two  pounds  of  bread  per  diem,  being 
more  than  two-fold  that  of  the  hard-worked  negro  slaves, 
while  the  average  is  greatly  higher. 

Anothor  example  of  prison  feeding  in  this  country,  that  of 
the  House  of  Correction  at  Brixton,  has  met  my  eye,  just  as  I 
am  revising  this  sheet  for  the  press  ;  and  is  well  worth  adding, 
because  it  was  the  subject  of  discussion  at  a  very  recent 
public  meeting  of  the  Surry  Magistrates,  in  which  the  suffi- 
ciency of  the  regulated  allowance  for  prisoners  in  general,  and 
the  necessity  of  increasing  them  for  health's  sake  to  such  as 
were  compelled  to  labour  in  the  tread-mill,  were  fully  consi- 
dered, and  with  the  benefit  of  medical  advice. 

The  ordinary  allowances  were  admitted  to  be  as  follows  : — 
Ten  and  a  half  pounds  of  bread,  ten  and  a  half  pints  of  gruel, 
ten  and  a  half  pints  of  soup,  one  pound  of  beef,  and  five  and 

318  The  hisuffiaency  oj  llie  Subsistence 

a  half  pounds  of  potatoes,  weekly,  to  each  individual ;  boys  and 
girls  included.  But  the  surgeon,  with  the  concurrence  of  the 
visiting  magistrates,  had  ordered  large  additions  in  a  great 
number  of  cases,  to  prisoners  who  were  put  to  labour  on  the 
mill ;  and  this  was  censured  by  one  or  two  of  the  gentlemen 
present  at  the  meeting,  as  a  wasteful  and  impolitic  excess, 
tending  to  make  the  prison,  in  the  present  bad  times  for  the 
poorer  classes,  an  object  rather  of  desire  than  terror.  The 
surgeon,  therefore,  was  called  on  for  explanations  ;  and  he  gave 
them  so  much  to  the  satisfaction  of  the  meeting  in  general, 
that  the  subject  was  dropped.  He  admitted  that  the  esta- 
blished allowances  were  in  general  sufficient ;  but  stated,  that 
the  visiting  magistrates  had  concurred  with  him  in  ordering 
the  additional  food,  because  the  labours  which  the  prisoners 
had  to  undergo  were  snch  as  could  not  be  borne  in  all  cases 
on  those  ordinary  allowances  ;  adding,  that  he  had  tried  ex- 
periments, for  the  purpose  of  convincing  himself  that  the  pri- 
soners in  question  were  suffering  from  the  effects  of  the  labour 
and  the  insufficient  diet ;  and  had  found  that  in  many  instances 
they  had  lost  twelve  or  fourteen  pounds  in  the  weight  of  their 
bodies,  before  he  ordered  for  them  the  extra  allowance.* 

What  the  amount  of  daily  labour  producing  these  effects  is 
at  Brixton,  I  am  not  able  to  state ;  as  the  account  I  cite  from 
is  silent  on  that  subject ;  but  the  Report  of  the  Society,  before 
referred  to,  states  the  time  of  work  in  other  prisons  as  less 
on  a  medium  than  eight  hours  per  day.  In  the  Bedfordshire 
Penitentiary,  for  instance,  we  are  told  that  the  prisoners  work 
nine  hours  a  day  in  summer,  eight  hours  in  the  spring,  and 
six  hours  in  winter,  averaging  seven  hours  and  forty  minutes ; 
and  these  penal  labours  are  probably  no  where  of  much  longer 

Let  us  look,  then,  at  the  shocking  and  opprobrious  result. 
The  English  vagabond  or  felon,  when  imprisoned  for  his 
crimes,  has  a  subsistence  which,  upon  the  lowest  general  esti- 
mate that  can  be  found,  is  at  least  two-fold  superior  in  nutri- 
tious value  to  that  of  the  poor  West  Indian   jVegro,  whose 

*  I  refer  to  the  proceedings  of  the  meeting  as  reported  in  the  Morning 
Chronicle  of  January  13th,  1830 

shewn  from  comparative  Views.  319 

freedom  has  been  forfeited  by  no  crime  of  his  own;  but  solely 
by  the  deep,  pubhckly  acknowledged,  legislatively  recorded, 
crime  of  this  enlightened  Christian  land,  perpetrated  against 
himself  or  his  African  progenitors.  The  one  is  thus  fed  while 
in  idleness.  When  forced  to  labour  his  subsistence  is  still 
larger  The  other,  though  his  forced  and  permanent  labours 
are  twice  as  great,  has  at  best  not  half  the  food.  Yet,  the 
former  allowances  are  limited  by  the  necessity  of  the  case,  the 
necessity  of  saving  him  from  wasting  of  the  body,  from  debility, 
sickness,  and  death.  What,  then,  must  be  the  consequences 
of  giving  less  than  half  the  subsistence  to  the  ultra-laborious 
slaves  ?  What  they  actually  are,  my  readers  have  sufficiently 
seen.  They  cannot  be  better  summed  up  than  in  the  em- 
phatic words  before  cited,  from  Dr.  Collins,  and  well  worth 
repetition  : — "  With  so  scanty  a  pittance,  it  is,  indeed,  possible 
''for  the  soul  aud  body  to  be  held  together  a  considerable  time" 
&c. ;  hut  the  negroes,  the  weaklier  sort  at  least,  "  crawl  about 
"  with  foeble  emaciated  frames, — their  attempts  to  ivield  the  hoe 
"  prove  abortive,  theij  shrink  from  their  toil,  and  being  urged  to 
**  perseverance  by  stripes,  you  are  soon  obliged  to  receive  them 
''  into  the  hospital,  lohence,  unless  your  plan  be  speedily  corrected, 
"  they  depart  but  to  the  grave.'"  "  I  aver  it  boldly,  melancholy 
"  experience  having  given  me  occasion  to  make  the  remark,  that  a 
"  great  number  of  negroes  have  perished  annually  by  diseases 
"  produced  by  inanition.'^ 

It  remains  to  compare,  as  I  proposed,  the  parsimonious  al- 
lowances of  the  sugar  planter,  with  the  subsistence  of  slaves, 
in  other  countries,  or  under  other  circumstances,  not  present- 
ing to  the  master  the  same  temptations  to  a  sordid  and  relent- 
less ceconomy. 

Here  let  me,  in  the  first  place,  refer  again  to  the  statements 
in  my  former  volume,  as  to  the  allowances  in  the  Bahamas ; 
where  from  the  failure  of  the  sugar-cane  and  other  exportable 
products  of  agriculture,  the  land  and  the  labour  of  slaves  are 
not  of  too  much  value  to  be  largely  employed  by  the  owners 
in  raising  indigenous  food.  It  was  shewn  that  the  subsistence 
of  slaves  there,  compared  with  that  of  the  Leeward  Islands,  is 
in  the  proportion  of  about  two  to  one,  while  the  labour  is 
lighter,  perhaps  in  nearly  the  same  proportion ;  and  that  the 

320  The  Lisujicienci/  of  ihe  Subsktence 

happy  effects  had  been  manifested  by  a  rapid  increase  of 
population,  and  a  copious  progressive  enfranchisement.* 

The  same  statutable  allowances  which  I  there  cited  from  an 
act  of  the  Bahamas  of  1797,  are  prescribed  by  the  last  act  of 
the  same  legislature,  passed  in  January  1824.  The  master  is 
required  to  give  to  every  slave  above  the  age  of  ten,  one  peck 
of  Indian  or  Guinea  corn,  or  twenty-one  pints  of  wheat  flour 
per  week;  while  the  law  of  the  Leeward  Islands  still  prescribes 
as  humane  and  liberal  subsistence,  nine  pints  of  the  one,  and 
eight  pints  of  the  other,  f 

The  last  Consolidation  Act  of  Jamaica,  that  of  December, 
1816,  clause  69,  furnishes  an  express  standard  of  sufficiency 
in  the  case  of  slaves  confined  in  the  workhouses  and  gaols 
of  that  island.  The  keepers  are  required  to  give  to  every 
slave  in  their  custody,  "  a  sufficient  quantity  of  good  and 
"  wholesome  provisions  daily ;  that  is  to  say,  not  less  than  one 
"  quart  of  unground  Guinea  or  Indian  corn,  or  three  pints  of 
"  the  flour  or  meal  of  either,  or  three  pints  of  wheat  flour, 
"  or  certain  specified  commutations  in  other  vegetable  articles, 
"  with  one  herring  or  shad.  J" 

What  clearer  or  more  authoritative  condemnation  of  the 
masters  in  the  foreign-fed  colonies,  and  their  law-givers  too, 
can  be  desired  ?  Their  allowances  of  food  to  hard-working 
negroes,  even  if  the  general  practice  conformed  to  the  melio- 
rating law,  would  be  less  by  about  one-half,  than  the  quanti- 
ties here  prescribed  as  the  minimum  of  adequate  support  to 
the  same  people  when  in  gaol.  That  the  council  and  assem- 
bly of  Jamaica  were  highly  competent  judges  on  the  subject 
will  not  be  denied ;  nor  will  it  be  supposed  that  their  estimate 
of  sufficiency  was  purposely  excessive.  They  could  not  mean 
to  encourage  desertion  and  other  offi^nces,  and  aggravate  need- 
lessly the  public  expence,  by  a  superfluous  liberality  in  the 
rations.     Yet  if  these  are  not  more  than  sufficient,  the  slaves 

*  Appendix  to  Vol.  I.  No.  III. 

f  See  the  Act  of  Bahamas,  rarHumentary  P(q)ers,  presented  hy  His 
Majesty's  command,  in  1825,  Clause  II.,  and  the  Act  of  the  Leeward 
Islands,  before  referred  to. 

X  See  the  Act  in  the  Paliamentary  Papers  printed  by  order  of  the 
House  of  Commons,  of  the  lOth  of  June  1818,  p.  66. 

shewn  from  comparative  Views.  321 

in  the  Leeward  Islands  must  be  half  starved  ;  and  would  be  so, 
even  were  their  allowances  increased  in  the  degree  that  Dn 
Collins  ventured  to  recommend.  He  advised  that  they  should 
be  raised  to  ten  or  twelve  pints  weekly,  when  the  slaves  de- 
pended wholly  upon  them  ;  but  even  this,  if  the  Jamaica  esti- 
mate be  right,  would  be  from  seven  to  nine  pints  less  than 
enough.  Had  that  writer  possessed  the  power  of  legislation, 
he  would,  I  doubt,  not  have  thought  the  same. 

Let  us  next  look  at  the  practice  of  slave  masters  in  the 
United  States  of  North  America.  For  this,  I  may  consistently 
quote  anti-slavery  authority,  for  it  respects  not  our  own  colo- 
nies, but  is  a  statement  of  the  Manumission  Society  of  New 
York,  which  certainly  had  no  wish  to  magnify  the  liberality 
of  American  slave  masters.  "  The  planters  of  South  Carolina, 
"  allow  to  each  slave  per  week  a  peck  of  Indian  corn,  five 
"  pounds  of  bacon,  and  a  pint  of  molasses ;  but  in  the  upper 
'*  country  where  provisions  are  more  abundant,  the  few  slaves 
"  there  fare  nearly  as  well  as  their  masters.  They  are  neither 
•'  tasked  in  their  work,  nor  limited  in  their  provisions." 

By  not  being  tasked  in  their  work,  we  must  obviously 
understand  not  over-worked  ;  and  it  is  certain  that  the  slaves 
in  that  country  are  not  driven.  As  they  are  also  sufficiently 
fed,  we  have  an  adequate  explanation  of  the  fact,  that  instead 
of  the  declining  progress  of  population  which  has  always  cha- 
racterized our  sugar  colonies,  the  negro  slaves  in  Carolina,  a 
far  less  healthy  climate  for  African  constitutions,  have  a  rapid 
native  increase. 

If  I  do  not  pursue  these  comparative  views  into  the  sugar 
colonies  of  foreign  powei"s,  it  is  not  because  I  believe  the  sub- 
sistence there  to  be  as  scanty  as  in  our  own  ;  but  because  the 
modes  of  it  are  for  the  most  part  so  dissimilar  to  those  which 
are  in  use  in  the  British  West  Indies,  especially  in  our  foreign- 
fed  islands,  as  to  preclude  any  clear  comparison  between  them. 
It  is  an  admitted  fact  that  in  the  Portuguese  and  Spanish 
colonies  the  slaves  are  better  treated  in  all  respects,  than  in 
our  own ;  but  as  to  their  subsistence,  it  is  derived  chiefly,  if 
not  wholly,  from  their  own  provision  grounds,  which  are  every- 
where in  those  colonies  abundant ;  and  so  is  the  time  which 
they  have  for  their  own  use.  "  In  some  parts  of  the  Brazils," 
says  the  Privy  Council  Re|)ort,  "  the  slaves  are  allowed  two 

VOL.    II.  ^ 

322  The  Imujiuiency  of  the  Subsistence 

'*  days  in  the  week  to  work  for  themselves."  *  Superstition 
also  is  friendly  to  this  degraded  class  in  the  bigoted  catholic 
colonies  of  Portugal  and  Spain,  from  the  number  of  church 
holidays  in  which  they  are  absolved  from  work  in  the  master's 

The  system  in  the  French  islands  is  more  analogous  to  our 
own  ;  and  it  is  evident  from  the  regulations  of  Le  Code  Noir, 
that  over-working  and  under-feeding  were  there  frequent 
enough  to  demand,  and  obstinate  enough  to  elude,  the  re- 
straints of  law.  The  former  species  of  oppression  has  been 
alleged  by  some  of  our  colonists  to  exceed  that  of  the  British 
planters ;  which  I  do  not  believe,  because  I  cannot  conceive 
the  possibility  of  any  such  excess ;  but  it  is  admitted  by  the 
same  authorities  in  general,  that  the  feeding  is  better.  "  The 
"  French,"  says  Dr.  Collins,  "  who  have  been  so  much  cele- 
"  brated  for  their  better  treatment  of  their  slaves,  excel  us  in 
*'  nothing  so  much  as  in  the  articles  of  feeding  and  clothing  ; 
"  for  in  some  respects  they  do  not  treat  them  so  well,  as  they 
"  punish  offences  with  greater  severity,  and  work  them  harder 
"  than  we  do ;  but  then  offences  occur  rarely,  and  their  capa- 
"  city  for  labour  is  much  greater  where  provisions  are  abun- 
"  dantly  supplied;  as  they  are  in  the  French  islands." f 

But  little  stress  is  to  be  laid,  in  a  moral  view,  on  these  diver- 
sities between  the  practice  of  sugar  planters,  whether  British 
or  foreign.  They  depend  chiefly  on  differences  of  local  cir- 
cumstances; and  wherever  the  driving  system  prevails,  the 
same  oppressive  principle,  the  result  of  commercial  competi- 
tion, directs  the  use  of  it  in  whatever  various  forms;  namely 
that  of  exacting  as  much  of  work,  with  as  little  ex  pence  for 
the  labourer's  support,  as  in  the  eye  of  a  rigidly  calculating 
oeconomy,  is  thought  to  be  at  all  compatible  with  the  pre- 
servation of  the  gang.  The  natural  consequence  also  is  every 
where  the  same.  Individual  avarice  pushed  on  by  competition 
frequently  overshoots  its  mark  ;  and  by  an  excess  of  exaction, 
or  of  parsimony,  or  of  both,  beyond  what  nature  can  sustain, 
produces  on  many  plantations  a  waste  of  life,  more  than 
enough  to  counterbalance  the  native  increase  on  others,  and 

*  Privy  Council  Report,  Part  IV.  title  Portugal. 
f  Practical  Rules,  p.  92. 

shewn  from  comparative  Views.  323 

make  the  tide  of  population  refluent  in  the  colony  at  large, 
except  when  kept  up  by  the  slave  trade. 

After  all,  there  is  no  subject  of  comparison  in  respect  of 
food,  nor  any  single  fact  in  relation  to  it,  more  painfully  im- 
pressive, than  the  more  liberal  and  abundant  subsistence  to 
which  the  poor  Africans  are  accustomed  in  their  native  land. 
This,  like  every  other  part  of  the  case,  was  a  subject  of  gross 
and  fatal  misrepresentation  on  the  part  of  the  West  India  com- 
mittee, and  the  slave-traders  with  whom  they  made  common 
cause,  before  the  committee  of  privy  council  and  parliament. 
Because  famines,  partial  ones  at  least,  have  been  known  in 
Africa,  it  was  held  forth,  in  defence  of  the  slave-trade,  that 
its  victims  were  carried  from  a  state  of  want  and  hunger  into 
plenty ;  and  even  that  they  sold  themselves  for  food.*  Many 
a  credulous  dupe  of  colonial  impostures  was  led  to  believe  that 
they  actually  had  the  benefit  of  a  transition  from  scanty  and 
precarious,  into  abundant  and  sure  subsistence.  Some  of  the 
West  India  writers  had  the  confidence  to  treat  this  alleged 
benefit  as  a  compensation  for  slavery  and  exile. 

But  in  this,  as  in  most  other  instances,  the  valuable  volume 
I  have  so  often  quoted,  brought  the  truth  clearly,  though  tar- 
dily to  light ;  and  proved,  as  usual,  that  the  real  case  was  the 
very  reverse  of  the  alleged  one.  Dr.  Collins  has  shewn,  in 
the  most  satisfactory  and  decisive  way,  that  instead  of  the 
African  captives  exchanging  hunger  for  fulness  of  bread,  they 
had,  by  a  difficult,  and  often  deathful  process,  to  exchano;e 
the  full  feeding  of  their  native  land  and  their  Pagan  masters, 
for  the  starving  pittances  of  food  to  which  the  avarice  of  their 
Christian-English  purchasers  reduced  them  in  the  sugar  co- 

I  refer  here  chiefly  to  his  chapter  on  the  "  Seasoning  of 
"  Negroes,"  and  that  "  oii  Diet.''  From  the  latter  I  have 
already  extracted  abundantly  enough  to  shew  how  inade- 
quately, in  the  experienced  author's  judgment,  the  slaves  in 
general  were  fed  ;  and  in  his  chapter  on  the  seasoning  of  new 
negroes,  we  find  him  expostulating  more  strongly  still  against 
the  same  murderous  parsimony  in  their  case,  on  account  of 
the  full  feeding  to  which  they  were  accustomed  in  their  native 

»  See  Vol.  I.  .%!  to  363,  and  380,  381. 
Y  2 

324  The  Insufficiency  of  the  Subsistence 

land.  That  treatment  of  new  negroes,  while  the  African 
slave-trade  prevailed,  which  was  called  their  "  seasoning,"  was 
in  fact  a  training,  not  only  to  hard  work,  but  to  scanty  diet, 
to  both  of  which  they  were  equally  unaccustomed  prior  to 
their  exile ;  and  the  reducing  them  to  the  ordinary  subsistence 
of  the  Creole  or  seasoned  slave,  was,  it  appears,  a  difficult, 
and  often  too  hurried  a  part  of  the  process,  from  the